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FOCUS: Nuclear-free world more distant after unsuccessful NPT conference

New York/Washington/Beijing, Aug. 28 (Jiji Press)–A review conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT, ended in failure for the second straight time, the first such development since the NPT took effect in 1970, reflecting the deteriorating international situation.

 

The NPT review conference that started Aug. 1 at the U.N. headquarters in New York closed Friday without adoption of a final document.

 

With the United States, Russia and China now taking moves going against nuclear disarmament, the goal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons is becoming more and more distant.

Powerful Tool

Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear states in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech on Feb. 24, when the country started invading Ukraine.

 

On Feb. 27, Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be raised to a special mode.

 

In July, former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that if Ukraine launches an attack on Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, using heavy weapons supplied from the United States and European countries, all of the countries would face a doomsday.

 

Previously, Russia showed a positive stance on nuclear disarmament because the country, whose economy had been in a dire state, could not afford a full-scale arms race with the United States.

 

The 2021 U.S.-Russia agreement to extend their New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was a welcome development for Moscow.

 

Following the invasion of Ukraine, however, nuclear weapons are a powerful tool for Russia to intimidate the United States, European nations and Ukraine.

 

The Putin administration is unlikely to accept serious dialogue on nuclear disarmament, pundits said.

 Keeping Role of Nuclear Weapons
   
U.S. President Joe Biden has inherited former President Barack Obama’s principle of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.

 

In the 2020 presidential race, Biden pledged that the United States would use nuclear weapons only when the country and its allies are attacked with nuclear arms.

 

At the time, some expected that Biden would even show an intention to adopt a “no first use” policy for nuclear weapons.

 

As Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons in Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, however, the Biden administration has given up narrowing the role of nuclear weapons.

 

In an outline of the Nuclear Posture Review, announced in March, the Biden administration said that maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent “remains a top priority.”

 

By loosely describing nuclear deterrent as the basic role of nuclear weapons, the NPR left room for the United States to carry out a counterattack if a hostile nation launches a large-scale conventional attack, biological or chemical attack or cyberattack.

 

The Biden administration conducted two subcritical nuclear tests in 2021. It is expected to carry out an additional test within several years, aiming to maintain the country’s nuclear arms development capacity and the quality of its nuclear weapons.

China Boosting Presence

China, which is expected to increase its nuclear warheads to 1,000 by 2030 from about 350 as of last year, is moving to develop and deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit U.S. mainland and hypersonic weapons.

 

Chinese State Councillor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe said in June that the country is developing its nuclear arsenal in order to avoid facing the calamity of nuclear war.

 

China had not been very prominent during discussions at NPT-related meetings in the past, a diplomatic source said.

 

At the latest NPT review conference, however, the country was seen aggressively pushing its position.

 

China succeeded in having a final draft of the review conference document mention that a naval force’s nuclear promotion is attracting interest from member countries, an apparent reference to the AUKUS security framework among the United States, Britain and Australia for Australia’s introduction of nuclear-powered submarines.

 

Although the latest NPT review conference ended unsuccessfully, one of the positive results from the four weeks of discussions at the conference is that many participating countries shared the view that Russia and China are sources of concern for the NPT regime, a diplomatic source said.

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