Nuclear nonproliferation has become an important global norm codified by the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but conflicting national interests and aspirations have produced divergent policy responses, not always consistent with the norm. This panel examines the nuclear activities of four Asian countries--India, Pakistan, Japan, and South Korea— and their interaction with the United States during the late 1970s when widespread apprehension about proliferation triggered intense but not always successful efforts to contain it. The mixed results have had lasting repercussions. The four cases presented here involve governments that sought to develop their nuclear potential to the maximum, seeking full fuel cycles, even, in some instances, weapons capabilities. Therefore, they raise the problem of nuclear latency, where governments reach the brink of a capability to produce the bomb. And the cases also raise questions about the impact of the U.S. government’s policy to restrict capabilities to produce nuclear weapons. The panel thereby addresses the origins of controversial issues in twentieth century nuclear history that shape the twenty-first century world, including concerns about sovereignty, the boundaries between peaceful and military uses of nuclear power, and the limits of nonproliferation norms in an increasingly complex global economic and security environment. The panel also engages in ongoing historical debates concerning globalization and the role of American power during the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover, by addressing the problem of conflicting national loyalties to the nonproliferation norm, the panel seeks to contribute to the theme of our Annual Meeting.
Focusing on U.S. concerns about nuclear proliferation in South Asia, the first two papers explore the Jimmy Carter administration’s efforts to curb the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs. With its well-developed fissile materials production capabilities and significant diplomatic leverage, during 1979-1980 the Indian government successfully rejected U.S. proposals for full-scope safeguards on its Tarapur reactors. When Washington, London, and Paris discovered Islamabad’s secret uranium enrichment activities, Pakistan also resisted U.S. pressure to freeze its nuclear activities. Broader geopolitical concerns discouraged Washington from applying strong pressure on both India and Pakistan. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea were both strongly interested in full fuel cycles, but Japan went relatively far with plutonium reprocessing, eventually reaching nuclear latency on the fissile materials side. During 1977, the Carter administration tried to curb Japanese plans, but without much success, and Tokyo became a “model” for emerging nuclear energy states seeking similar capabilities. By contrast, South Korea felt more constraints with its efforts to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability suppressed in 1976 and close U.S. scrutiny continuing. Nevertheless, the Park Chung-hee regime quietly pursued fuel cycle goals, while trying to reverse President Carter’s efforts to cut back on U.S. security commitments.