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Editorial: Deal with nuclear arms buildup of China and Russia effectively

While bolstering its deterrence against the nuclear arms build-up by Russia and China, calling on them to ease tension and reduce armaments: The United States must tenaciously tackle these thorny challenges.


U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. Noting that Russia has been violating the agreement and China is developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, Trump said that the United States also will have to advance weapons development.


The treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987 during the Cold War. It specified that the two countries would destroy and permanently abandon all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.


With their first framework to reduce nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Soviet Union established a climate for arms reduction and cooperation between nuclear powers. Confidence-building efforts through mutual verification also led to the end of the Cold War in 1989. That spirit must be respected even today.


Since the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, the United States has criticized Russia, claiming it has secretly been developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Russia denies violation of the treaty.


The unconstrained strengthening of armaments by China, which isn’t in the treaty, is also serious. Having developed and deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles, with Japan and Guam within range, China is moving ahead with a strategy of disrupting the deployment of U.S. forces in the western Pacific.


Japan must play role


Even if the United States complies with the spirit of the treaty, if Russia and China continue their military buildup, it would become difficult for the United States and its allies to maintain their deterrence. The global security order that has been formed under U.S. leadership could also collapse. It is understandable for Trump to harbor such a sense of crisis.


The latest announcement of abandoning the treaty apparently came as an extension of the posture of “expanding the role of nuclear weapons in deterring [attacks],” which the U.S. administration spelled out in its nuclear strategy released in February.


The problem is it is not clear what sort of strategy Washington will pursue following the recent, shocking announcement.


Trump has indicated his idea of continuing to bolster nuclear capabilities until other countries, including China and Russia, rectify their misconceptions. Isn’t a nuclear arms buildup akin to the Cold War era only going to intensify tensions?


While dealing with provocations of China and Russia resolutely, it is also necessary for the United States to grapple with crafting a tripartite framework for arms control with China and Russia.


Wisdom must be exercised to make China change its stance of not having agreed to the nuclear disarmament negotiations, on the pretext of exercising “restraint in the development of nuclear weapons.”


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, emphasizing “the role the treaty has played in disarmament,” said, “We hope that it [the United States’ withdrawal] will be averted.”


Japan still remains exposed to the nuclear and missile threats posed by China and North Korea. While securing the effectiveness of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella,” Japan is required to make approaches to other countries to move realistic nuclear disarmament forward.

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