May 14, 2014
EDITORIAL: China must not be allowed to put NPT regime at risk

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) requires the world’s nuclear states to strive in earnest for nuclear disarmament. Unless this requirement is fulfilled, the treaty itself, which prohibits non-nuclear countries from possessing nuclear weapons, could collapse. When that happens, the world will be a dangerous place for all countries, irrespective of whether they have nuclear capabilities.

Yet, the attitude of the nuclear states makes us doubt that they have any serious interest in averting that sort of global crisis.

The third session in New York of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT closed on May 9 with no results to speak of. The committee failed to narrow the gap between non-nuclear countries and the five NTP-approved nuclear states--the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.

Based on an agreement reached at the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, the five nuclear states issued written reports for the first time on disarmament trends. The United States, Britain and France stressed that their nuclear capabilities are now way below the levels they were during the Cold War era. But none of them indicated a road map for ending their reliance on nuclear weapons.

China and Russia did not even disclose the numbers of nuclear warheads in their possession.

The outcome could not have been more disappointing. The nuclear states ought to reawaken to their grave responsibilities.

Our only hope now lies with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has called for a world free of nuclear weapons despite the fact that his country is the world’s most powerful nuclear state.

A U.S. representative who delivered a speech at the session showed an understanding of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons for the first time. This was a notable change, even though the United States does not support the Nuclear Weapons Convention proposed by non-nuclear nations.

The third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons will be held in Vienna in December. As an ally of the United States and the only country that has been attacked with nuclear weapons, Japan should urge the United States to participate in this conference.

Last July, Obama called for negotiated arms reduction with Russia, proposing to further reduce their agreed-upon strategic nuclear weapons capabilities by one-third to around 1,000 warheads. But U.S.-Russia relations have since deteriorated over the Ukraine crisis and other issues, leaving the talks schedule up in the air.

Since the United States far outpowers Russia in conventional weapons, it should still be able to maintain its deterrence power even if it reduces its strategic nuclear weapons. This is actually what we would like the United States to do voluntarily, and then urge Russia to follow suit. And for Russia, which is having problems with its aging nuclear system, this would not be a bad deal.

China, which refuses to disclose its nuclear capabilities, could pose a risk to the maintenance of the NPT regime in the days ahead. But if the United States and Russia forge ahead with further nuclear disarmament at Obama’s initiative, China will become increasingly unable to have its way.

The time has come for Obama to strongly urge China to stop making empty promises and take action for disarmament.

Obama’s approval ratings are not getting any better at home. But he must stand his ground if he really intends to establish a solid path toward a nuclear-free world.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 14

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