Hiroshima Round Table adopts urgent appeal over expiration of INF Treaty

by Yumie Kubo, Staff Writer

On August 22, the Hiroshima Round Table, a meeting to explore a path toward nuclear disarmament in East Asia, adopted four items in an urgent appeal. With the expiration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, this appeal includes urging all countries to hold back from engaging in a nuclear arms race. The meeting participants, from nine nations including some nuclear weapon states, have all agreed that the international framework and institutions that can facilitate nuclear abolition are on the verge of collapse.

It is the first time that an urgent appeal has been adopted at the Hiroshima Round Table, a gathering that Hiroshima Prefecture has organized each year since 2013. A draft of the appeal was made through discussions that were held over two days at a hotel located in Naka Ward. The preface stresses: “The participants are very concerned about the rising risk of the use of nuclear weapons, and the danger of the eroding credibility and effectiveness of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.” Four items were crafted with the goal of maintaining peace and stability.

Among these items, the participants stressed “regrettably” regarding the expiration of the INF Treaty. They strongly called on all countries to “exercise maximum restraint,” and to “explore all possibilities for reciprocal restraint” because an arms race involving intermediate-range missiles would result in destabilizing consequences.

The other three items appeal for: Extending the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaty, which is set to expire in February 2021, for an additional five years; Urging relevant states to sign and/or ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in order to enable its entry into force as soon as possible; and Upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Regarding the CTBT, the participants have demanded that all countries refrain from activities that would defeat the objective and purpose of the treaty while actions are being taken by all nations so that the treaty can enter into force.

Of the 24 experts on nuclear disarmament and diplomacy from nine countries, including Japan, the United States, China, and Sweden, the Japanese members prepared the urgent appeal. They also made the chairman’s statement, which stated that “the participants discussed and proposed concrete steps to reduce dependence on nuclear deterrence and advance nuclear disarmament.”

Hiroshima Prefecture will ask the Japanese foreign ministry and the governments of other nations for their understanding and cooperation and submit the urgent appeal to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, to be held in the spring of 2020. The prefecture will also encourage the participants to express their views from their perspectives. After the meeting ended, Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki held a press conference and said, “We must collect the wisdom of countries around the world to overcome this crisis, as the situation surrounding nuclear disarmament is very dire.”

Outline of the “Hiroshima Urgent Appeal” adopted at the Hiroshima Round Table

We are very concerned about the rising risk of the use of nuclear weapons, the steadily deteriorating situation surrounding nuclear arms control and disarmament, and the danger of the eroding credibility and effectiveness of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Regrettably, the INF Treaty has been abandoned. Any intermediate-range missiles arms race would cause destabilizing consequences.

It is imperative to exercise the option to extend the New START Treaty for an additional five-year period.

We urge relevant states to sign and/or ratify the CTBT in order to enable its entry into force as soon as possible.

We deeply regret the unilateral decision by one party to abandon the JCPOA and urge all parties to continue to uphold its multilaterally negotiated commitments.


Expiration of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which called for the abolition of a specific category of nuclear weapons for the first time and was concluded between the United States and Russia, was the pillar of nuclear arms reduction after the Cold War, but it expired on August 2. The treaty was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union, and then U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987, and both nuclear superpowers have maintained the treaty for more than 30 years. However, in February 2019, the United States announced its intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty because Russia was thought to be violating the provisions of the treaty. Russia denied violating the accord, but the treaty was terminated on its expiration date, deepening the divisions between these two countries.

(Originally published on August 23, 2019)