It is important to maintain the only remaining nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia. The two countries must speed up their talks and pave the way for an extension of the treaty.
The United States and Russia held a dialogue between high-ranking officials on nuclear disarmament and agreed to set up a working-level panel to continue their negotiations.
The biggest focal point is whether to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire in February next year.
New START, which came into effect in 2011, targets long-range nuclear weapons. It has set a ceiling on the number of nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers deployed. ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers are used to carry nuclear warheads.
This framework for nuclear disarmament, which was inherited from the Cold War era between the United States and the Soviet Union, has played a role in balancing the nuclear capabilities between the two largest nuclear powers and preventing a nuclear war. Mutual on-site inspections and regular consultations based on New START also contribute to building confidence between the two. If the treaty expires, that would be a loss for the entire international community.
Russia has taken a positive stance toward extending the treaty for five years. On the other hand, the United States has proposed the inclusion of short- and medium-range missiles as objects to be regulated by the treaty, and the establishment of a new arms control framework for three countries including China.
The United States’ assertions are appropriate as challenges to be addressed in the medium- to long-term, but it is realistic to make extending New START the first priority.
The problem is that the United States and Russia are competing with each other to improve the technology of nuclear weapons and are trying to lower the hurdles for use.
With the aim of expanding the role of nuclear weapons in terms of security, the United States promotes the deployment of nuclear warheads with reduced explosive power. Russia has released guidelines that allow the use of nuclear weapons if it receives reliable information that a ballistic missile aimed at the country has been launched.
It is important to ease tensions by putting the brakes on an exchange of threats that could lead to unforeseen circumstances.
China refused to participate in the nuclear talks. As a reason, it cited the fact that the United States and Russia account for 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads and China has relatively few.
However, China’s nuclear capability has rapidly increased in recent years, and the real situation is extremely unclear.
There is reason for the United States to insist that the U.S.-Russia disarmament treaty is out of step with the times.
As one of the world’s major military powers, China should recognize its responsibility to actively participate in the disarmament framework.
With the expiration of the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, there are concerns about competition over deploying intermediate-range missiles in Asia. It is essential for Japan to support disarmament by the United States, China and Russia to prevent the security environment from deteriorating.