Former Japanese foreign minister expresses concern over nuclear disarmament as INF Treaty ends

by Seiji Shitakubo and Masatoshi Kuwabara, Staff Writers

With the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia, Fumio Kishida, the chairman of the Policy Research Council of the Liberal Democratic Party, acknowledged at a press conference held at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo on August 2 that “This is a very serious situation with respect to making progress with nuclear arms reduction and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” Mr. Kishida represents the first district in Hiroshima, the city that was destroyed by the atomic bomb.

Considering the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea, Mr. Kishida, a former foreign minister, is concerned that the efforts being made by the nuclear weapon states to reduce their numbers of nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) are very likely to be set back. He hopes that other nuclear weapon states, like China, will understand the importance of nuclear disarmament and demonstrate this understanding through their actions.

Mr. Kishida also mentioned that the NPT Review Conference, which takes place every five years, will be held in 2020, the year marking the 50th anniversary of the NPT entering into force. He said, “Aiming for the ideal goal of creating a nuclear-weapon-free world, the Japanese government, representing the only country to have been attacked with atomic bombs, must make its utmost efforts.”

However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that he believes the United States decided to scrap the INF Treaty because Russia was thought to be violating the provisions of the treaty. At a press conference on August 2, Mr. Suga said, “Although the U.S. decision to terminate the treaty is not desirable, I understand their position.”

Pointing to the nuclear arms buildup by China, which is not covered by the INF Treaty, Mr. Suga said, “We have to recognize the reality that countries other than the United States and Russia are developing and deploying missiles in preparation for battle.” He also mentioned, “It is important to discuss how to control the arms in East Asia. I’d like to work closely with the United States and urge other countries concerned to work with us.”

(Originally published on August 3, 2019)