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Editorial: INF treaty abrogation must lead to disarmament involving China

The U.S. Trump administration has announced its intention to abrogate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, a bilateral treaty with Russia. The INF treaty will lose effect six months later.


It’s easy to criticize the United States as running counter to the idea of “a world without nuclear weapons.” Such criticism, however, is too facile.


The United States’ abrogation of the INF treaty shows that it has now changed its stance and will no longer stay on the sidelines while China and Russia expand their nuclear arsenals. It can be taken as a measure to rebuild the nuclear deterrence posture that’s frayed around the edges. We can say it’s a counteraction to protect the people of the United States and its allies including Japan.


The INF treaty was concluded between the United States and the now-defunct Soviet Union in 1987. It prohibited the two parties from manufacturing and possessing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles ranging 500-5,500 kilometers. It was one of the prime nuclear disarmament agreements between the United States and Russia. In recent years, however, it has changed in nature, now standing in the way of the United States’ national security and its allies’ security.


Russia denounced the United States for its abrogation of the INF treaty. However, Russia is not qualified to say such a thing. In violation of the INF treaty, Russia developed the “9M729,” a new ground-launched cruise missile, and started its deployment in 2017.


The United States has expressed concern since 2014 about the “9M729.” Russia, however, remonstrated and made a false charge against the United States, refusing to scrap the cruise missile.


What’s more, China, which is not bound by the INF treaty, has reinforced its intermediate-range forces. This is a matter of grave concern. The INF treaty prohibits the United States from possessing 90% of the missiles China possesses.


The United States has not been allowed to possess or deploy the intermediate-range nuclear forces that it needs to solidify its nuclear deterrence posture against China and Russia. As such, the United States has been disadvantaged in the balance of nuclear forces.


With the present level of science and technology, there is no way we can be sure of intercepting nuclear missiles that will cause serious damage. A country has no choice but to employ its capabilities, including nuclear forces, in order to deter nuclear wars or diplomatic threats backed by nuclear weapons.


Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has released a statement in which NATO seconded the United States’ abrogation of the INF treaty. Japan should take a similar step. It concerns the national security of Japan, which is being exposed to the threat of China’s and other countries’ intermediate-range nuclear forces. 


U.S. President Trump has suggested the necessity of another nuclear disarmament treaty involving China and other nuclear powers. This is an appropriate advocacy.


China has refused to join the INF treaty posture, reasoning that it “opposes a multilateral treaty” to ban intermediate-range nuclear forces. The United States is now moving to revamp its intermediate-range nuclear forces. This move will urge both China and Russia to sit down in earnest to negotiate for nuclear disarmament.

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