Editorial: U.S. unable to call on North Korea to denuclearize when it continues to conduct nuclear tests

It has been learned that the United States conducted a subcritical nuclear experiment last December. It was the first such test performed under the Trump administration and the first U.S. nuclear test in five years.

It is said that the purpose of the test was to obtain data by impacting plutonium with explosives but avoiding the condition of nuclear criticality that would result from a continuous chain reaction of nuclear fission. While such tests do not lead to a nuclear explosion, they still must be considered part of the nuclear development process. As indicated in the statement issued by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the test performed last December was intended to validate the capability of a newly-designed nuclear weapon. As a newspaper company based in the A-bombed city, we protest strongly against this test. Reportedly, the United States is planning to conduct another test this December to check the performance of new nuclear technology. We call forcefully for this test to be canceled.

In February, the Trump administration released the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which constitute the new strategic guidelines for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It includes easing conditions for the use of nuclear weapons, and the development of smaller, low-yield nuclear arms. The United States has set the goal of developing “usable nuclear weapons” and demonstrated this with the test it carried out last December. It can only be said that this test runs counter to the antinuclear trend in the world, including the aim of alleviating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Looking back on the past five years, the movement seeking nuclear abolition has become a definite global trend. Advancing that trend is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted last July by 122 nations, accounting for two-thirds of U.N. member states. In the words of Setsuko Thurlow, an A-bomb survivor living in Canada, nuclear weapons have always been immoral, and now they are also illegal.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization that has been working with Ms. Thurlow and made key contributions to the adoption of the treaty, was awarded last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Indeed, it can be said that last year was a milestone year for the world’s antinuclear movement.

However, the NPR released by the Trump administration dismisses the nuclear weapons ban treaty entirely, saying that the treaty is based on unrealistic expectations. In addition, it has clearly stated that it does not intend to support the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), a pillar for the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which the United States is a member.

It can be assumed that the general U.S. nuclear strategy is to ensure that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is in top condition for use so it can be prepared for the extreme circumstances that the United States or its allies might face. That strategy remains unchanged since the leadership of Barack Obama, the former U.S. president who advocated “a world without nuclear weapons” and delivered a speech to the world when he visited Hiroshima. While the individual nuclear tests must be decried, the overall American nuclear policy must also be questioned fundamentally.

Meanwhile, this year there has been significant change in the conditions of Northeast Asia, including Japan, as steps toward realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were made through summits between North Korea and South Korea, and between North Korea and the United States. Needless to say, how the denuclearization of North Korea can be verified is a difficult challenge, but it is also welcome news that the official end of the Korean War is now in sight.

The United States plans to urge North Korea to move forward with denuclearization, yet will continue conducting its own nuclear tests. This situation makes no sense because U.S. actions may impede the momentum created by discussions between those two nations.

At the same time, it’s hard to say that the Japanese government has pursued diplomacy as the A-bombed nation because it has clung to its position of not protesting the U.S. subcritical nuclear tests. Also, Japan has welcomed the Trump administration’s new NPR. Instead, it should be giving more weight to recent developments, such as those occurring on the Korean Peninsula. That A-bombed Japan would welcome and support the U.S. intention to strengthen its nuclear strategy, in order to fortify its alliance with the United States, is wholly unacceptable.

(Originally published on October 11, 2018)