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Hiroshima for Global Peace


A) The current status of the roles and significance of nuclear weapons

No NWS announced new policies regarding the role of nuclear weapons in 2017,102 but the United States indicated it would do so early in 2018 as a result of its nuclear posture review. Meanwhile, its NSS in December 2017 mentioned that “[w]hile nuclear deterrence strategies cannot prevent all conflict, they are essential to prevent nuclear attacks, non-nuclear strategic attacks, and large-scale conventional aggression.”103 Each nuclear-armed state emphasizes that the role of its nuclear weapons is defensive, including deterrence vis-à-vis an attack against its vital interests.

As an issue on the role of nuclear weapons, it should be noted since 2014, that Russia has engaged in repeated nuclear saber-rattling. The tone of Russia’s nuclear provocation did become more sober in 2017, however. Still, Russian strategic bombers continue, inter alia, approaching and violating the airspace of European NATO countries. Russia also deploys the nuclearcapable Iskander-M SLBM in Kaliningrad, which was launched during its military exercise Zapad-2017.104

Again in 2017, North Korea made many provocative statements regarding nuclear weapons, including the following:

  • “In case of a nuclear war on the peninsula, Japan that houses logistic bases, launching bases and sortie bases of the U.S. forces will be put under radioactive clouds before any country.”105
  • “All the military attack means of the DPRK including nuclear weapons that have already been deployed for an actual war are leveled at the U.S. imperialist aggression forces’ bases in Japan as well as the U.S. mainland. And they are waiting for the moment to launch annihilating blows.”106
  • “The KPA Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam including the Anderson Air Force Base in which the U.S. strategic bombers, which get on the nerves of the DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above south Korea, are stationed and to send a serious warning signal to the U.S.”107
  • “The KPA will start the Korean-style preemptive retaliatory operation of justice to wipe out the group of despicable plot-breeders once a slight sign of the U.S. provocation scheming to dare carry out a ‘beheading operation’ against the supreme headquarters of the Korean revolution out of wild calculation is detected. The Korean-style earlier preemptive attack will burn up all the objects in the areas under the control of the first and third field armies of the puppet forces including Seoul the moment the U.S. reckless attempt at preemptive attack is spotted, and will lead to the all-out attack for neutralizing the launch bases of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces in the Pacific operational theatre together with the simultaneous strike at the depth of the whole of the southern half.”108
  • “Onodera, who took the post of [Japan’s] defence minister on August 4, officially made public the stand by saying at a press conference that the Japan Defence Ministry is examining the ‘possession of ability for attacking enemy bases aimed at mounting a preemptive attack at the missile bases of the north’ as a measure for countering the DPRK’s ballistic rocket launch. The DPRK has already acquired the capabilities of reducing the Japanese archipelago to ashes in a second once it makes up its mind. The Japanese reactionaries should clearly understand that their mean, frivolous and mischievous act will only face merciless telling blow by the nuclear fist and that in that case the whole Japanese archipelago might be buried in the Pacific.”109
  • “The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan. They will fly 3,356.7 km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.”110
  • “The behaviors of Japs, sworn enemy of the Korean nation, are enraging us. The wicked Japs should not be pardoned as they have not yet made a sincere apology for the neverto-be-condoned crimes against our people but acted disgustingly, dancing to the tune of the U.S. ‘sanctions.’ A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our ICBM over the Japanese archipelago. The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us. This is the voices of the enraged Korean army and people.”111
  • Kim Jong Un stated in January 2018: “[O]ur Republic has at last come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse…The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.”112

On the other hand, amid increasing tension on the North Korean issue, the United States dispatched B-1 and B-52 strategic bombers to the Korean Peninsula for conducting respective joint exercises with Japan and South Korea, aiming to bolster deterrence against the North and reassurance for its allies in Northeast Asia. In September, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that B-1B strategic bombers “flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea. This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.”113 Additionally, President Trump threatened North Korea repeatedly, saying for instance:

  • “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” (Twitter, August 8, 2017)
  • “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”114
  • “We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option…But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”115
  • “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” (Twitter, January 2, 2018)
B) Commitment to “sole purpose,” no first use, and related doctrines

In 2017, no nuclear-armed state changed or transformed its policies regarding no first use (NFU) or the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons. Among the NWS, only China has highlighted a NFU policy.116 There are expectations that the Trump Administraion will change the previous U.S. administration’s policy that “[t]he fundamental role of [its] nuclear weapons remains to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its Allies and partners.”117

Among the other nuclear-armed states, India maintains a NFU policy despite reserving an option of nuclear retaliation vis-à-vis a major biological or chemical attack against it. On the other hand, Pakistan, which has developed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the “Cold Sstart doctrine” adopted by the Indian Army,118  does not exclude the possibility of using nuclear weapons against an opponent’s conventional attack. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif has warned that if India launched a surgical strike on the country’s nuclear installations, nobody should expect restraint from Islamabad either.119  Against a background of such a nuclear posture by Pakistan, it has been reported that India may review its NFU policy. However, the Indian government denies any plan to change its existing nuclear policies.120

While North Korea had previously announced NFU of nuclear weapons, it declared a change to this policy in 2016. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho stated in September 2017: “We will take preventive measures by merciless pre-emptive action in case the U.S. and its vassal forces show any sign of conducting a kind of ‘decapitating’ operation on our headquarters or military attack against our country…However, we do not have any intention at all to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK.”121

C) Negative security assurances

No NWS changed its negative security assurance (NSA) policy in 2017: China is the only NWS that has declared an unconditional NSA for NNWS; other NWS add some conditionality to their NSA policies. The United Kingdom and the United States declared they would not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NNWS that are parties to the NPT and in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations. The U.K.’s additional condition is that: “while there is currently no direct threat to the United Kingdom or its vital interests from States developing capabilities in other weapons of mass destruction, for example chemical and biological, we reserve the right to review this assurance if the future threat, development and proliferation of these weapons make it necessary.”122

In 2015, France slightly modified its NSA commitment, which is that: “France will not use nuclear weapons against states not armed with them that are signatories of the NPT and that respect their international obligations for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”123 However, it preserves an additional condition that its commitment does not “affect the right to self-defence as enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”124 Russia maintains the unilateral NSA under which it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the NNWS parties to the NPT unless it or its allies are invaded or attacked by a NNWS in cooperation with a NWS.

Except under protocols to the nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) treaties, NWS have not provided legallybinding NSAs. At various fora, including the NPT review process, the CD and the UN General Assembly, NNWS, mainly the NAM states, urged NWS to provide legally-binding security assurances. At the 2017 NPT PrepCom, Iran proposed to adopt a separate “decision on negative security assurances” at the upcoming 2020 NPT RevCon, in which the Conference confirms that: all the NWS unequivocally undertake to refrain, under any and all circumstances and without discrimination or exception of any kind, from the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against any NNWS party to the NPT; and all the NWS solemnly undertake to pursue negotiations on providing universal, legally binding, effective, unconditional, non-discriminatory and irrevocable security assurances to all NPT NNWS against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under all circumstances, within the CD, and bring them to a conclusion no later than 2023.125 Among NWS, only China argues that the international community should negotiate and conclude at an early date an international legal instrument on providing unconditional NSAs. Meanwhile, France stated that it “considers [the] commitment [in its statement in April 1995] legally binding, and has so stated.”126

As written in the previous Hiroshima Reports, while one of the purposes of the NSAs provided by NWS to NNWS is to alleviate the imbalance of rights and obligations between NWS and NNWS under the NPT, India, Pakistan and North Korea also offered NSAs to NNWS. India declared that it would not use nuclear weapons against NNWS, except “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” Pakistan has declared an unconditional NSA. In addition, North Korea has stated an NSA to NNWS so long as they do not join nuclear weapons states in invading or attacking it.

D) Signing and ratifying the protocols of the treaties on nuclear-weapon-free zones

The protocols to the nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) treaties include the provision of legallybinding NSAs. At the time of writing, only the Protocol of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and Caribbean (the Treaty of Tlatelolco) has been ratified by all NWS, as shown in Table 1-6 below. No new progress regarding additional ratifications by NWS has made in 2017. Among others, as for the Protocol to the Southeast Asian NWFZ Treaty, the five NWS have continued consultation with the state parties to the Treaty to resolve remaining differences, but they have yet to sign the Protocol.127

Some NWS have stated reservations or added interpretations to the protocols of the NWFZ treaties when signing or ratifying them. NAM and NAC have called for the withdrawal of any related reservations or unilateral interpretative declarations that are incompatible with the object and purpose of such treaties.128 However, it seems unlikely that NWS will accept such a request. Upon ratification of the Protocol to the CANWFZ Treaty, for example, Russia made a reservation of providing its NSA in the event of an armed attack against Russia by a state party to the Treaty jointly with a state possessing nuclear weapons. Russia also “reserves the right not to consider itself bound by the Protocol, if any party to the Treaty ‘allows foreign military vessels and aircraft with nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices aboard to call at its ports and landing at its aerodromes, or any other form of transit of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices through its territory.’”129

E) Relying on extended nuclear deterrence

The United States and its allies, including NATO countries, Australia, Japan and South Korea, maintained their respective policies on extended nuclear deterrence. Currently, the United States deploys approximately 150 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs in five NATO countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey), and thus maintains nuclear sharing arrangements with them, including supported by NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group. While no U.S. nuclear weapon is deployed outside of American territory, except in the European NATO countries mentioned above, the United States established consultative mechanisms on extended deterrence with Japan and South Korea. In 2017, as the security environment has deteriorated in Europe and Asia, each alliance has sought to strengthen the reliability of extended (nuclear) deterrence. However, there were few concrete changes in their policies on extended nuclear deterrence.

In the meantime, faced with North Korea’s rapid nuclear development, it was reported that “a senior national security aide to then-President Park Geunhye raised the issue of redeploying American nuclear weapons with a U.S. National Security Council staff member, only to be turned down” in October 2016.130 U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis acknowledged that he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo discussed reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula in August 2017,131 but there was no indication that the US has any intention to do this. South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated in September 2017: “I do not agree that South Korea needs to develop our own nuclear weapons or relocate tactical nuclear weapons.”132

Japan has denied any intention to review its Three Non-Nuclear Policy (not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons, in line with Japan’s Peace Constitution), including contemplating a possibility of deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan’s territory.

On the matter of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement, especially the U.S. deployment of its tactical nuclear weapons in five NATO countries, some NNWS criticize this situation as a clear violation of non-proliferation obligations under Article I of the NPT by those transferor NWS and under Article II by those recipient NNWS.133 Russia and China have called on NATO to withdraw the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from the European NATO countries, and to end the nuclear sharing policy.

[102] For each nuclear-armed states’ basic nuclear policy, see the Hiroshima Report 2017.

[103] United States of America, “National Security Strategy,” December 2017, p. 30.

[104] “Iskander-M Missile Hits Target in Kazakhstan at Zapad-2017 Drills,” Tass, September 18, 2017,; Maggie Tennis, “Russia Showcases Military Capabilities,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 47, No. 9 (November 2017), p. 24.

[105] “Reckless Acts of Precipitating Ruin,” Rodong Sinmum, May 3, 2017,

[106] “Japan Should Practice Self-Control”, KCNA, May 20, 2017.

[107] “U.S. Should Be Prudent under Present Acute Situation: Spokesman for KPA Strategic Force”, KCNA, August 9, 2017,

[108] “U.S. War Hysteria Will Only Bring Miserable End of American Empire: Spokesman for KPA General Staff”, KCNA, August 9, 2017,

[109] “Japanese Reactionaries Should Not Go Frivolous before Merciless Nuclear Fist”, KCNA, August 9, 2017,

[110] “KPA Will Take Practical Action: Commander of Strategic Force”, KCNA, August 10, 2017,

[111] “KAPPC Spokesman on DPRK Stand toward UNSC “Sanctions Resolution””, KCNA, September 13, 2017,

[112] “Kim Jong Un’s 2018 New Year’s Address,” January 1, 2018,

[113] U.S. Department of Defense, “U.S. Flies B1-B bomber Mission off of North Korean Coast,” September 23, 2017,

[114] “Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly,” September 19, 2017,

[115] Steve Holland and Idrees Ali, “Trump: Military Option for North Korea not Preferred, But would be ‘Devastating,’” Reuters, September 25, 2017,

[116] However, the United States considers that “[t]here is some ambiguity…over the conditions under which China’s NFU policy would apply.” U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017, May 2017, p. 60.

[117] U.S. Department of Defense, “Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy,” June 19, 2013, p. 4.

[118] “Short-range Nuclear Weapons to Counter India’s Cold Start Doctrine: Pakistan PM,” Live Mint, September 21, 2017,

[119] “Pakistan Warns India Against Targeting Its Nuclear Installations,” Economic Times, October 10, 2017,

[120] Max Fisher, “India, Long at Odds with Pakistan, May Be Rethinking Nuclear First Strikes,” New York Times, March 31, 2017, See also Rajesh Rajagopalan, “India’s Nuclear Strategy: A Shift to Counterforce?” Observer Research Foundation, March 30, 2017, Yashwant Raj, “India Could Strike Pakistan with Nuclear Weapons If Threatened, Says Expert,” Hindustan Times, March 21, 2017,

[121] Jesse Johnson, “North Korea Foreign Minister Warns of ‘Pre-Emptive Action’ As U.S. Bombers Fly off Korean Peninsula,” Japan Times, September 24, 2017,

[122] NPT/CONF.2015/29, April 22, 2015.

[123] In its report submitted to the 2014 PrepCom (NPT/CONF.2015/PC.III/14, April 25, 2014), France stated that it “has given security assurance to all non-nuclear-weapon States that comply with their non-proliferation commitments.”

[124] NPT/CONF.2015/10, March 12, 2015.

[125] NPT/CONF.2020/PC.I/WP.4, March 20, 2017.

[126] NPT/CONF.2015/PC.III/14, April 25, 2014.

[127] As mentioned in the Hiroshima Report 2016, both ASEAN member states and NWS implied that they continued consultations over possible reservations by NWS.

[128] NPT/CONF.2015/WP.4, March 9, 2015. See also the UNSCR regarding the Tlatelolco Treaty (A/RES/71/27, December 5, 2016).

[129] “Putin Submits Protocol to Treaty on Nuclear-Free Zone in Central Asia for Ratification,” Tass, March 12, 2015,

[130] Hiroshi Minegishi, “South Korea Leaves Door Open to US Nuclear Weapons,” Nikkei Asia Review, September 12, 2017,

[131] Dan Lamothe, “Pentagon Chief Says He Was Asked About Reintroducing Tactical Nuclear Weapons in South Korea,” Washington Post, September 18, 2017,

[132] “President Moon Rules Out Deployment of Nuclear Weapons in South Korea,” NK News, September 14,

[133] “Statement by Iran,” Cluster 1, First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference, May 5, 2017; “Statement by Egypt,” Cluster 1, First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference, May 5, 2017.

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