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Editorial: New agreement should be created to prevent nuclear arms race

The nuclear arms race is now in danger of going out of control. U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Japan’s security environment is also feared to deteriorate. A new international agreement is necessary for nuclear disarmament.


As an example of the U.S. having abrogated a nuclear disarmament treaty with the former Soviet Union, the administration of President George W. Bush in 2001 told Russia that it would pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which had fettered Washington’s missile defense program.


Back then, the U.S. also unilaterally rushed for withdrawal in defiance of Russia’s opposition. At one time, however, Russia wanted to abrogate the INF Treaty.


Robert M. Gates, who once served as secretary of defense for the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, wrote his memoirs titled “Iraku Afugan Senso no Shinjitsu” (“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War”). According to this book, Gates met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov in 2007, and during the meeting Ivanov commented on the AMB Treaty, which stipulated the total eradication of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers. The Russian minister insisted, “It doesn’t make sense that only the U.S. and Russia can’t deploy these missiles.”


Ivanov added, “We don’t intend to deploy mid-range ballistic missiles against the West, but we’d like to deploy them against the south and east, in other words, to target Iran, Pakistan, and China.”


Gates replied that if Russia wants to scrap the agreement: “Please go ahead. But the U.S. doesn’t support the abrogation.”


Trump also cited Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty and China’s military buildup as reasons for the exit from the treaty. China is notably developing missiles, while the U.S. and Russia are shackled by the treaty. In April this year, Beijing revealed that it had deployed the “Dongfeng-26,” a ballistic missile called “Guam killer” that can reach Guam, home to U.S. military bases.

But pulling out of the INF Treaty is outrageous even though it is intended to counter China. It will also cause serious repercussions and could trigger an arms race not only between the U.S. and Russia but also between the U.S. and China. Further, tension will rise in East Asia and that will be a threat to Japan.


On the other hand, unlike during the final stage of the Cold War, when the INF Treaty was signed, technology diffusion has been accelerated and that enabled such countries as North Korea and Iran to possess missiles. So it is also true that the bilateral INF Treaty between the U.S. and Russia does not match the actual situation.


It is time for us to consider a new multilateral treaty that can restrain the development and possession of missiles. The road to achieving that goal should be long and rough. But still, we hope that the U.S. and Russia, which have accomplished a landmark arms reduction called the INF Treaty, will play a leading role to make it happen.

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