Column 1 Stagnation in Nuclear Disarmament and Non- Proliferation Efforts Continues
by Nobuyasu Abe
It is approaching 10 years since we began issuing the Hiroshima Reports, so I looked back into the past reports to see how much progress toward nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear security has been made. Unfortunately, there have been no significant overall improvement, and the average rating has only risen slightly. I realized it is not much of a use to plot the data on a graph, since the figures failed to reveal any clear trends.
Without mentioning the trend assessed by Hiroshima Reports, experts around the world have expressed concerns about the stagnation in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The U.S. journal, “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,” announced that The Doomsday Clock, set every year since 1947, has come to only 100 seconds before the end of the world. The bulletin has warned that the state of crisis has reached the worst level, worse than the worst time during the Cold War. Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, has summarized that the golden age for nuclear disarmament and arms
control was from 1986 to 1996, and the situation has taken a turn for the worse since then. The CTBT negotiations were concluded in 1996, and it was opened for signature in 1997. But it still is not in force, after more than 20 years since then. Meanwhile the INF (Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, entered into force in 1987, was scrapped last year, after 32 years.
There are too many signs of stagnation in nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation to mention them all, ranging from the race to modernize nuclear forces to North Korean and Iranian issues, but the scrapping of the INF Treaty, in particular, has the potential to become an issue directly impacting on Japan’s arms control and disarmament. The sequence of events that originally led to the signing of the treaty began with the heightened threat that could throw Europe instantly into a nuclear war as the U.S. and the Soviet Union began deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles in the region. This prompted difficult negotiations, which almost led to an agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to scrap the deployment in European theatre. The consequential prospect of the Soviet Union moving their missiles from Europe to the Asia theatre, placing Japan within their range, prompted the objection from Japan, leading to the conclusion of the treaty placing a total worldwide ban on the intermediate-range missiles by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Scrapping of this treaty will once again allow Russia to deploy these missiles in the Asian theatre placing Japan within their range.
The main reasons for the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty were the Russian deployment of missiles in violation of the treaty, and the fact that China, not bound by the treaty, has rapidly built up military capability, including intermediate-range missiles. No longer bound by the treaty, the U.S. has expressed its intention to deploy intermediate-range missiles to counter the threats from China and North Korea, and Japan has become one of the likely places of deployment. 1
Despite the rising tensions, unfortunately, there has been no major discussion of the issue in the world. Experts have asserted that this issue needs to be one of the focal points of the U.S. Presidential election, but this has not been the case so far. Japan too, has been facing the rising threat of nuclear weapons and missiles developed by North Korea, but there is no apparent sense of urgency within the country. However, ignoring this problem may push the clock from 100 seconds before doomsday to zero. We cannot afford to give up on our efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
The NPT Review Conference to be held in New York, in April, if held as scheduled, provides us with an important opportunity, and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must persevere in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. Moreover, the Global Peace Plan being promoted by Hiroshima Prefecture is an effective plan that aims to focus on nuclear disarmament from a wide perspective and achieving peace. Experts and senior leaders from the countries concerned gather for the Hiroshima Round Table to examine and offer specific measures to promote nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation. It is hoped that the Japanese government too, will step forward to play an active role. If Japan gives up, it will be the end of the story.
Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe, Former U.N. Under- Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and former Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission
1 The U.S. is currently considering the deployment of conventional ballistic missiles, so there is no immediate threat of the deployment of nuclear weapons.