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15:39 28 January 2015

OPINION: Can Japan jumpstart action on nuclear disarmament?

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, Kyodo

Nuclear weapons continue to pose global dangers. Their elimination is a global enterprise that requires renewed leadership, dialogue, and action on the part of all the world's nations.

Unfortunately, 70 years after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, progress on disarmament is stalled and several states are expanding or modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

China, India, and Pakistan are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. North Korea continues its nuclear pursuits in violation of its earlier denuclearization pledges.

These arsenals, although smaller in number, are dangerous and destabilizing. Leaders in Beijing, New Delhi, and Islamabad profess support for disarmament and "minimum" deterrence, but their actions suggest otherwise. Chinese officials suggest they will act only if and when there are deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons cuts.

Clearly, Washington and Moscow can and must do more to reduce their bloated nuclear stockpiles. Each deploys about 1,600 strategic warheads -- far more than needed to deter a nuclear attack. If used even in a "limited" way, the result would be global nuclear devastation.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced he is prepared to cut the U.S. arsenal by an additional one-third, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's answer, so far, is "Nyet."

Meanwhile, progress on the nuclear test ban treaty and other initiatives is negligible.

Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, more than 150 states have convened conferences on the catastrophic humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, these efforts have not yet halted nuclear competition or led to multilateral disarmament talks.

Creative ideas are needed to overcome the obstacles and excuses. A new nuclear disarmament dialogue is needed.

Now is the time for Japan and the other members of the 11-nation Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative to provide much-needed leadership by inviting the leaders of a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states to a one- or two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

The high-level meeting -- ideally to be held around the Aug. 6 and 9, 2015 anniversaries -- could be a starting point for ongoing disarmament discussions. Such a dialogue should be based on a clear understanding of the impact of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

Participants should be asked to bring "house gifts" -- specific actions by states that would concretely reduce nuclear risks, freeze or reduce numbers of nuclear weapons, and/or make nuclear programs more transparent.

Such a summit would complement an ongoing dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts involving the P5 nuclear-armed states, the humanitarian impacts conferences, and provide new momentum on disarmament.

For example, cutting U.S.-Russian arsenals to 1,000 strategic warheads each, combined with a nuclear weapons freeze by China, India, and Pakistan, could help create the conditions for multilateral talks on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

To reinvigorate the disarmament system and make the 2015 NPT Review Conference a success, Japan and other key states must do more than simply repeat previous calls for action. They must take action.

(Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the independent, U.S.-based Arms Control Association.)




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