Introduction (1) Overview
There are few signs of improvement in the situation surrounding nuclear issues; rather, the situation appears to be in a downward spiral. The United States, which had been criticizing Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, finally announced its withdrawal from the treaty in February 2019. Six months later, on August 2, the U.S. formally followed through, prompting Russia to declare the INF Treaty a thing of history. The United States also signaled disinterest in extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) beyond its current expiration date of February 5, 2021, while Russia offered to do so. The United States is increasingly arguing that not just the United States and Russia but also China should participate in a nuclear arms control process. However, China has repeatedly argued that it would not join such a process without further reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, and the U.S. has made little effort to initiate nuclear arms control talks to engage both China and Russia.
Meanwhile, all nuclear-weapon/armed states continue to modernize their nuclear forces. In particular, Russia and China have been actively promoting thedevelopment and deployment of various new delivery vehicles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. As for multilateral nuclear arms control, no indication could be seen that the impasses over the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which has not entered into force, and a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) whose negotiation has yet to be started are headed for resolution. The number of signatories and ratifying countries of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was opened for signature on September 20, 2017, is steadily increasing, and its entry into force will be realized in the near future. However, nuclear-weapon/armed states and their allies continue to clearly state that they do not intend to sign the TPNW.
Regarding nuclear non-proliferation, North Korea neither conducted nuclear and missile tests nor threatened uses of nuclear weapons in 2019, as in the previous year. However, contrary to expectations, no agreement was reached at the US-North Korean summit meeting in February, and no progress has been made toward resolving the North Korean nuclear issue since then. North Korea has not made a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear arsenal. It appeared likely to continue its development of nuclear weapons and missiles, and at year’s end it declared an end to its two-year moratorium on nuclear and long- range missile testing. Furthermore, North Korea expanded its circumvention of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear issue became more tense, as Iran, after showing patience for a year after the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, began in the latter half of 2019 to steady withdraw from its own obligations under the deal. By year’s end, the deal was near death, as Iran had exceeded the limits on the amount of low enriched uranium allowed to be stockpiled as well as the level of enrichment, the number of operating centrifuges and the pace of development of more capable centrifuges. Iran continued the verification requirements of the JCPOA, however, and said its steps on exceeding the limits could be reversed if the US renewed waivers of sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
As for nuclear security, information on strengthening the level of nuclear security in each country and announcements on the results of these efforts tended to decline in general. Having said that, some countries that are highly wary of the threat of nuclear terrorism, and those that are particularly focused on introducing nuclear power continue to make progress in their efforts to strengthen nuclear security. Improvements have also been seen in
some countries, as concrete initiatives such as ratification of the nuclear security related conventions, participation in activities aimed at improving nuclear forensics technology and efforts on capacity building cooperation are expanding. As for events related to nuclear security in 2019, serious cyberattacks on nuclear power plants have been revealed, and, like drone attacks, there has been a growing awareness of nuclear security threats associated with technological advancement. In February 2020, the International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) was held for the first high-level meeting in three years. In the same way, the first Review Conference of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM/A), which is attracting international attention as a key nuclear security relevant convention, is scheduled for 2021. Under these circumstances, it is highly expected that nuclear security in each country will be improved sustainably and constructively, and that the reality of such efforts will be made public.