“For 50 years, the Arms Control Association has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement

The United States and Japan automatically extended a 1988 civilian nuclear pact on July 17 as Japanese officials pledged to address concerns about Japan’s substantial plutonium stockpile. The agreement allowed either side to request a review of the deal, but neither side chose to do so. Under its terms, the pact remains in force in perpetuity but each side, if it chooses, is able to terminate the agreement by giving six months’ written notice. Japan’s civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 agreement setting U.S. terms for sharing nuclear energy technology, is unique and controversial due to the blanket consent that it provides Tokyo to enrich uranium and extract plutonium from U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel. Enrichment and reprocessing activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for power reactors and produce the explosive material for nuclear weapons.

Japan had more than 47 tons of plutonium as of 2016, enough to produce around 6,000 nuclear warheads. Ten tons of this material are stored in Japan while the remainder is held in France and the United Kingdom. Critics fear that these materials could be used to build nuclear weapons, thereby granting Japan a latent nuclear weapons capability. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that prior to the pact’s extension, the United States demanded Japan make efforts to reduce the stockpile. On July 31, Japan’s nuclear energy commission adopted a guideline to cap plutonium production and eventually reduce the stockpile, but it provided no timeline or specifics on a plan to do so.—MONICA MONTGOMERY

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement

ACA Board Chair on Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World



Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Remarks by Thomas Countryman
Chairman of the Arms Control Association
to the International Symposium for Peace 
Nagasaki, Japan
July 28, 2018


Panelists discuss working toward sustainable peace at the International Symposium for Peace “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition” held on July 28 in Nagasaki. (Photo: Kengo Hiyoshi/Asahi Shimbun) Let me thank the organizers of today’s conference for bringing me again to Japan. In my current focus outside the government of the United States, continuing to push for real progress on nonproliferation and arms control measures, it's always a special pleasure to come to Japan. The Japanese role in leading the international diplomatic challenge to create the highest standards in arms control and nonproliferation is unparalleled. Not only as a partner of the United States but in its own leadership role, Japan has done much to create the modern nonproliferation regime that has greatly reduced but not yet eliminated the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

It is especially moving to be here in Nagasaki. Visiting the memorial yesterday, a sacred place, brought back to me what President Abraham Lincoln said at the site of the bloodiest battle America ever witnessed: that those who have fallen on this site “have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”. I sensed on this spot what no book can convey: the enormous challenge and the risk that humanity continues to face in the presence of 15,000 nuclear weapons in this world. Here I want to commend the very special role the hibakusha have played in preserving vital lessons for the memory of humanity. For 70 years, they have spread the simple truth that a human being is not just a statistic. They will touch future generations long after their own has passed from this world. I wish that every American and every world leader would have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I have.

Current Challenges

It is much easier to talk about the challenges to nuclear disarmament than it is to describe a simple path to a world free of nuclear weapons. So let me dwell first on the current challenges that we face.

First, the two major nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation, have passed a turning point in their nuclear doctrines and nuclear arsenals. After about 40 years of a steady decrease in the size and diversity of their nuclear arsenals and the mission that each assigned to their nuclear weapons, both Washington and Moscow have turned a corner towards expanding the size and variety of arsenals and the circumstances for their use.

U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review from this February is not a radical change from the previous nuclear posture but it is a significant change in direction. In calling for the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States is thinking more actively and – in my view - making more thinkable the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the context of a conventional conflict. As so many have pointed out, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war once that threshold has been crossed. “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon," George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. "You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there."

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review describes with more specificity than before circumstances under which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons to encompass not only first use by an opponent but also a response to a devastating attack by cyber or other means. Just two years ago, the Obama administration considered carefully the possibility of proclaiming a no-first-use doctrine for U.S. nuclear weapons. That U.S. policy has now shifted towards a broader definition of possible first use is of deep concern to me.

Finally, I am most disappointed in the Nuclear Posture Review in that it effectively renounces the traditional leadership that the U.S has exercised on non-proliferation and arms control issues. It makes no mention of America’s binding legal obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue a reduction in arsenals. It makes no new proposals for how the U.S. will move forward in negotiations with Russia and others. And it defers any meaningful action until security conditions in the world have improved. This retreat from global leadership, whether in arms control, in climate policy or in free trade agreements is unworthy of a nation that claims to be a superpower.


As concerned as I am about the direction of U.S. policy, I am even more concerned about the continuing development by Russia of new weapons and new delivery methods. Russia seems driven by an exaggerated fear, in fact, a paranoia, about the future capabilities of U.S. missile defense. I call these fears exaggerated because I believe that missile defense can never provide an impenetrable shield. Russia is building not only new generations of ICBMs but even more dangerous weapons systems that seem to step out of the pages of a science fiction comic book, including a nuclear torpedo of unlimited range and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia seems intent on probing the boundaries of existing arms control agreements, particularly the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which laid the basis for the next 25 years of successful arms limitations. Even more than the uninformed statements by the U.S. president, the rhetoric of the Russian president - increasingly defining Russia’s national power as a function of its nuclear arsenal - erodes both the prospect of future arms control and the moral taboo against initiating the use of nuclear weapons. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in 2021 and although President Putin has raised the prospect of extending the treaty, President Trump has so far rebuffed such proposals.

Joint Comprehensive Program Of Action

In the shorter term, I am especially concerned about the U.S. decision to withdraw from, that is to violate, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action with Iran. This agreement is unprecedented, both in its inspection and verification requirements, and it prevented the risk of a tenth state breaking into the nuclear weapons club. I do not believe that Iranian development of a nuclear weapon is imminent but I am deeply concerned about the follow-on effects of this decision, that is the undermining of U.S. credibility and commitment to any agreement, the creation of a serious dispute between the U.S. and its best allies in Europe and Asia, the erosion of the international rules-based order and a resurgent radicalism in Iran.

North Korea

I am less pessimistic but still deeply concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. President Trump did the right thing, trading in violent rhetoric for an opportunity for dialogue. There are dozens of reasons to distrust North Korea’s approach to negotiations and to doubt the capability of the Trump administration to negotiate a meaningful, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. But the pursuit of negotiation is far preferable to simply sleepwalking towards war, as we seemed to be doing a year ago.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains central to our shared global ambition to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce existing arsenals. On the surface, the deliberations at NPT conferences often seem utterly divorced from the real world. In fact, all the concerns I’ve just listed have a real effect on the degree of consensus you can reach among NPT parties and on the commitment that other parties show to the treaty.

For the 2020 Review Conference, I can foresee the worst but I am determined to work for the best. The RevCon can easily be upset either by the U.S. and Russia sniping at each other or by the continued inability of the states in the Middle East to sit down together and begin the process of discussing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. But the most severe threat to the unity of states-parties is the growing frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the pace of nuclear disarmament. Seeing no new U.S.-Russian agreements since 2010 and the new threatening developments in Washington and Moscow that I’ve already described, the majority of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states have made clear that they will demand more urgent progress in 2020.

Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World

So what can we do to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons?

Near-Term Steps

There are a number of steps that the United States and Russia could take right now that would change the current trajectory. First and most simply, to hear President Trump and President Putin repeat what Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan said in 1985 - that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought - would be of value, would provide some reassurance that these two leaders understand their responsibilities to humanity. Secondly, the United States and Russia need to extend New START. Third, they need to make a political decision to work harder on resolving the dispute about compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And fourth there needs to be a more regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington on both the military and political level, to pursue risk reduction measures that would prevent a conventional conflict from escalating to a nuclear one and to explore other steps that would allow each to maintain security at a lower level of armament. Finally, the United States should reassert the leadership it showed after 2010 when it led an intensive dialogue among the P5 nuclear-weapon states to give the world greater transparency, to reduce nuclear risks, and to lay the groundwork for future multilateral arms control.

It’s not easy to get either Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to do something that reminds them of Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama. In fact, it’s not easy to get them to do something unless you can convince them that it was their own brilliant idea. But it is an obligation of the rest of the world to continue to press for this. I know from my own experience with bilateral diplomacy that meetings with either Russian or American leaders always have an agenda filled with urgent items and that concerns about long-term items such as arms control simply fall out of the conversation. It is crucial that not only Japanese leaders but all world leaders press both Presidents to take serious action.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Moscow and Washington, what can non-nuclear weapon states do for themselves to move us towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? Many non-nuclear weapon states have sought to answer that question by negotiating a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted last July.

The drafting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year was historic. Some would like to see it as simply an expression of frustration on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. It’s a lot more than that. It is a strong moral and ethical statement. And more than that, it is something tangible, something that can be touched by the hibakusha and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is not born only by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament. I’m well aware of its limitations. The TPNW will not by itself immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. And it does not provide a pathway for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

I don’t see the discussion between advocates and skeptics of the TPNW as being an argument about practicalities or about whether this treaty can work. It is - or it should be - a respectful discussion about deterrence. Nations that face no immediate military threat tend to underestimate the importance that military alliances and military deterrence play for those states that do face actual military threats. Similarly, those states whether in Europe or in Asia that feel reassurance under the nuclear umbrella of the United States tend not to appreciate how strongly concerned other states are about the disastrous humanitarian effects that a nuclear war would cause.

What is needed now is a multi-sided discussion on a topic that is easy to define and extremely difficult to resolve: how to guarantee the security of the world and of each nation without resort to nuclear deterrence. This is a discussion that has to bring together not only the idealists and social activists who helped to bring about the TPNW but also the security experts and military leaders who have the responsibility of providing for their nations’ security. It has to bring together not only nuclear-weapon states but those who are allies of nuclear-weapon states and those who feel themselves to be far from any military threat. Given my own experience with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a place to discuss such difficult issues, I think it has to start smaller than a conference of 190 countries.

UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda

Washington and Moscow are not going to lead this discussion. What can the rest of the world do? The UN Secretary General has laid out a comprehensive blueprint on what needs to be done on disarmament issues to provide genuine security for our citizens. I love the document. I’d like to focus in particular on what he says about nuclear disarmament.

He calls on the United States and Russia to resolve INF compliance concerns, extend New START and pursue additional reductions. He encourages all states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques. He warned that the international community is moving backward on disarmament. “Let us all work together to bring new urgency to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said while unveiling his agenda at the University of Geneva in late May.

So how do we take forward an idea on which not only everyone in this room but most of the world is united upon?

Joint Enterprise

Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states can invite their counterparts - 20 to 30 heads of states of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon countries - to join a one or two day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This could be a starting point for ongoing regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial level. As the former foreign minister Kishida argued, this dialogue must be based both on a clear understanding of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

This is not a new idea. Four of the best American thinkers on such issues - George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn - have been arguing for several years for a Joint Enterprise, a new multilateral effort that would take concrete, practical steps to create the conditions that would make possible genuine nuclear disarmament. As outlined by the “four horsemen,” a Joint Enterprise summit would be supplemented by a joint communique from all participating states and national commitments to work towards disarmament. Unfortunately, the leadership of such an effort will not come from either Washington or Moscow. When the long-time ‘leader of the free world’ is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge. It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.

Discussion of the conditions that would help achieve a nuclear weapons-free world must become as common among world leaders as discussions about tariffs or immigration. The constant raising of this topic is the responsibility of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and it is the duty of citizens of all nations to remind their leaders of this responsibility.

It is written in Pirkei Avot, a well-known Jewish text, that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Here in Nagasaki, we say again that all of us – elected leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens – “we will not desist from this duty.”

Thank you and God bless you!




Remarks by Thomas Countryman to the International Symposium for Peace in Nagasaki, Japan

Japan Looks to Purchase Cruise Missiles

July/August 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Japan is moving forward with its plans to purchase mid- to long-range air-launched cruise missiles, which would give Tokyo the capability to conduct pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis welcomes Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an honor cordon at the Pentagon on April 20.  (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)The defense budget for fiscal year 2018, approved at the end of March by the Japanese bicameral legislature, the Diet, included funds to introduce cruise missiles to the country’s overall military capabilities. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera first officially announced Japan’s intentions to purchase the missiles in December 2017, saying that they would be used exclusively for defense purposes as “stand-off missiles that can be fired beyond the range of enemy threats.”

Japanese lawmakers have been more vocal, however, about the intentions behind the procurement of the new weapons, citing the need for a first-strike capability against North Korea. “It is time we acquired the capability; I don’t know whether that could be with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or even the F-35 [fighter jet], but without deterrence North Korea will see us as weak,” said Hiroshi Imazu, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives and chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) security policy council.

North Korea currently has a self-imposed moratorium on all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests as a part of its recent effort to diplomatically engage with the Trump administration, but has conducted tests over the Sea of Japan in recent years with multiple missiles landing in the Japanese exclusive economic zone.

The budget allocated 2.2 billion yen ($20 million) for the purchase of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for its F-35A stealth fighters and 30 million yen ($270,000) for research on modifying existing Japanese F-15 fighters to be equipped with Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) and extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM-ER).

The JSM and LRASM have a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), and the JASSM-ER can reach targets up to 1000 kilometers away. Compared to the 300-kilometer limit of current Japan Self-Defense Force missiles, the JSM, JASSM-ER, and LRASM could be used to strike North Korean missiles on the launch pad. Additionally, the missiles would have the range to counter strike threats from China, as tensions continue to rise in the East and South China seas.

The purchase of the cruise missiles and the logic behind their use presents a potential legal issue of constitutionality. Written in the wake of World War II, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and the threat of force as a method for resolving international disputes and states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Japan justifies the maintenance of its current military capabilities by its explicit self-defense purpose. Onodera has asserted that striking a nuclear-tipped missile on an enemy base falls under this category of self-defense if the attack is imminent and “no other options exist,” but the new cruise missiles may be perceived as offensive weapons with more war potential than any other existing Japanese military capability.

According to a 2017 Defense Ministry report, the acquisition of certain types of offensive weaponry is not permissible under any circumstance. But if the Diet approves funding for a new military capability not explicitly prohibited, such as cruise missiles, then it is seen as compatible with the constitution’s requirement of possessing only what is minimally required for self-defense.

Regardless, the cruise missile issue adds to the overall debate in Japan about the need to reconcile actual military capabilities and intentions with constitutional constraints.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire for constitutional changes to explicitly incorporate the defense forces into the document, and in May 2017, he set a goal of doing so by 2020. Abe’s proposed change still would not allow for offensive military actions, but could certainly open the way to a more military-friendly constitution. Amending the constitution would require approval from two-thirds of the Diet and the majority of voters in a referendum.

Plans to buy cruise missiles raise the issue of what is permitted militarily by Japan’s constitution.

India, Japan Nuclear Deal Implemented

A civil nuclear partnership deal between India and Japan entered into force July 20following an exchange of diplomatic notes. The agreement had been announced at a joint press conference Nov. 11 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after six years of negotiations. (See ACT, December 2016.) The deal paves the way for an ambitious expansion of India’s civilian nuclear power program through purchases of material and technologies from Japan. New Delhi plans to nearly double its current nuclear energy capacity by 2022. “The agreement seeks to promote full cooperation. . . in the development and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” according to a spokesperson at the Indian External Affairs Ministry.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, make a toast during a banquet at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on November 11, 2016. (Photo credit: Kiyoshi Ota/AFP/Getty Images)The deal marks the first agreement between Japan and a state that has not ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Although not an NPT member, India received a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 allowing it to conduct nuclear commerce for peaceful purposes. (See ACT, October 2008.) Multiple measures have been put in place under the deal to ensure nuclear transfers are channeled to peaceful purposes. New Delhi’s nuclear material and technology purchases will be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, and the deal can be nullified if India were to conduct a nuclear test. Further, in the event of such a test, Tokyo can require that any material or technology sales resulting from the deal be returned.—TYLER RODGERS

India, Japan Nuclear Deal Implemented

Japan Considers Cruise Missile Purchase

Japan is considering whether to buy cruise missiles due to the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missile development, according to officials quoted in The Japan Times on May 6. The government may include funds in the fiscal year 2018 budget for studying the feasibility of purchasing U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the report. The missiles would likely be deployed on Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet.

North Korea’s ballistic missiles are capable of reaching Japan, and several North Korean ballistic missiles have splashed down in Japan’s territorial waters during tests. Although the purchase of Tomahawks may be viewed as contrary to Tokyo’s defensive military posture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in January that striking North Korean launch sites would be self-defense. Japan would need to revise its five-year plan for a defensive buildup and its 10-year defense program guidelines, both set in 2013, before any purchase. The United States uses Tomahawk cruise missiles for conventional strikes, but has deployed several Tomahawk variants armed with nuclear warheads.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Japan Considers Cruise Missile Purchase

Japan's Special $2.43 million USD Contribution to the CTBTO

Japan announced its largest, voluntary contribution of $2.43 million (USD) to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Feb. 23 to improve the organization's verification capabilities to detect nuclear explosions around the world. CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo praised the act, telling Permanent Representative of Japan, Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano, “This generous contribution will further build-up the International Monitoring System’s capacity to improve our radionuclide monitoring technology, which can conclusively establish whether a nuclear test explosion has...

The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age



The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director
26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues
Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016

Thank you Akira. Thank you to the organizers and hosts of this very important conference.

It is an honor to be here once again in Nagasaki for this important gathering.

As several other panelists and speakers have noted, civil society has an important role and responsibility to play in the cause of disarmament. 

The rebuilt Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan. It was 500m from the hypocenter of the world’s second atomic attack on a city. Urakami was the largest Catholic cathedral in the eastern hemisphere before it was destroyed on August 9, 1945. (Photo: Arms Control Association)For decades, citizen diplomats, scientists, physicians, students, and concerned people the world over have successfully pushed their leaders to achieve nuclear disarmament.

But there are tough challenges ahead.

Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are on the rise once again, and progress on nuclear disarmament is stalled.

Nuclear-armed states are engaged in technological arms race.

North Korea may soon have an operational arsenal of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that can hit all of East Asia.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is under increasing stress.

The election of Donald Trump to the White House will not make things any easier.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who came into the White House with a detailed nuclear threat reduction game plan, Trump has no discernable strategy for managing today’s most daunting nuclear dangers.

As a result, Mr. Trump cabinet appointees will likely have wide latitude in determining policy, which could mean that the administration seek significant changes in established U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament policy.

Hard-won nonproliferation, nuclear risk reduction, and nonproliferation successes, and even the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, cannot be taken for granted.

What can NGOs do in these difficult times?

As we have successfully done years past when nuclear dangers were growing, we must:

  • act with even greater urgency to defend and build upon past disarmament and nonproliferation gains, particularly the CTBT; INF and New START;
  • The successful and effective Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is at risk. I would note that the Israeli PM has in an interview aired Sunday said that he would advise Mr. Trump on ways to unravel the JCPoA. Responsible diplomats and experts understand that such actions would set back the nonproliferation and disarmament cause. Civil society groups in Israel, the United States and elsewhere must counter such developments.
  • continue to make the security case for deeper nuclear reductions, removing weapons from prompt-launch status, banning nuclear testing, preventing new warhead development;
  • encourage meaningful diplomatic engagement with North Korea to cap its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities and reduce tensions in the region;
  • strengthen ties with governmental and nongovernmental partners around the globe. In the United States, a number of NGOs are discussing the formation of a new, cross-sector “Campaign to Reduce and Eliminate Nuclear Dangers;"
  • engage with new constituencies and stakeholders who have not been engaged on the nuclear weapons and disarmament issue, particularly members of the younger generation in the nuclear armed-states and nonnuclear weapon states; and
  • put meaningful pressure on government officials to advance practical, concrete nuclear risk reduction and disarmament initiatives.

There are many different NGOs and strategies. Each is valuable and has something to offer. Each has their approach and policy prescription. There is no all-in-one solution.

The Negotiation of a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

One important new step that can reduce the salience of nuclear weapons is the forthcoming negotiation of a new instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Contrary to some skeptics, this process is not a distraction, nor will it undermine the NPT, as some fear.

The strong support for negotiations on a ban treaty needs to be understood as a logical international response to the underwhelming pace of progress by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states on nuclear disarmament in recent years.

Let be clear: these underlying trends are what threaten the NPT, not the ban treaty negotiations.

In order to attain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally-binding norm to prohibit such weapons. As such, the pursuit of a treaty banning the development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is a key step along the way.

This new process has the potential to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not an all-in-one solution, but do represent an important new contribution.

Those states and NGOs involved in the negotiation – and we plan to be among them – have some difficult work ahead. To be effective, the instrument will need to:

  • Specify which activities related to nuclear weapons possession, planning, development, production, and testing are prohibited. Each of these prohibitions must be effectively verifiable, even if this negotiation does not elaborate the monitoring and verification regime.
  • Compliment and perhaps enhance existing treaties that prohibit or limit certain nuclear weapons-related activities, including the CTBT, the current nuclear weapons free zone treaties, and the NPT, among others.
  • Provide a pathway or pathways for states that now possess nuclear weapons or are part of alliances with nuclear-armed states to join the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

The negotiators should seek a formula that is meaningful but also draws the widest possible support from states participating in the negotiation. Consensus should be the goal but not a requirement for agreement on the final outcome. States such as Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and China that expressed some reservations about the initiative should nonetheless participate in the negotiations.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament, Nor will the process necessarily lead the nuclear-armed states to act with urgency to fulfill their nuclear disarmament obligations.

Repeating the mantra that “we must patiently pursue a step-by-step approach on disarmament” does not constitute an effective or responsible strategy.

Diplomats, NGOs and political leaders can and must do better.

Certainly, the nuclear-armed states—particularly the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan—can and should do more to overcome old obstacles and animosities to advance disarmament and nuclear risk reduction measures. But we cannot count on these governments to provide leadership.

Middle powers, including Japan, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, and others, have an important role to play to provide leadership and fresh ideas on key nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives.

One way to bridge the growing divide on disarmament and to create new momentum might be to convene a series of conferences or a series of “summits” that bring together high-level representatives of nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states for disarmament discussions and outside of the moribund Conference on Disarmament.

Achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons requires bold and sustained action.

As President Obama said earlier this year when he visited Hiroshima: “we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”


Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball at the 26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016

Country Resources:

Japan Signs Nuclear Accord With India

December 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

India and Japan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that will allow New Delhi to purchase material and technologies from Japan for its civilian nuclear program. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the agreement in Tokyo on Nov. 11 after six years of negotiations. Modi called the accord a “historic step” for India’s “engagement for a clean energy partnership.” 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe shake hands during a joint press conference at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on November 11. (Photo credit: Franck Robichon/AFP/Getty Images)The deal will help New Delhi realize its ambitious plans to expand its civilian nuclear power program. According to the World Nuclear Association, India currently has 21 operating nuclear power reactors, six units under construction, and plans for more than 20 additional reactors. 

India is able to engage in nuclear commerce because it received a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 2008. The waiver allows New Delhi to purchase nuclear technology from NSG members, such as Japan, for peaceful uses despite not having ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and having placed only some of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. (See ACT, October 2008.

Abe said that the deal sets up a “legal framework to assure that India acts responsibly.”

The nuclear material and technology purchased by India under the deal with Japan will be subject to IAEA safeguards. India and the IAEA reached an agreement in 2009 for a limited number of its nuclear facilities to be placed under safeguards.

Under the agreement with Japan, India is also permitted to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and enrich uranium, although not to weapons-grade levels, and it is required to account for all of the nuclear material transferred under the agreement. 

Opponents of the deal have argued that India can exploit these provisions to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons program. In a Nov. 11 statement, Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist for Greenpeace, said that there is “no effective separation between India’s nuclear energy program and its weapons program” and that the agreement will “support further nuclear weapons proliferation in Asia.” 

Abe has defended the agreement as “in line with Japan’s position to promote nonproliferation.” The agreement contains clauses that allow Tokyo to nullify the agreement and require New Delhi to return any materials or technologies purchased from Japan if India conducts a nuclear test. Prior to the return of materials, the two countries would jointly assess the safety considerations of halting work at any facility and conduct a security assessment to determine if India’s actions were prompted by a “changed security environment.” 

India conducted nuclear explosive tests in 1974 and 1998 and has declared a nuclear testing moratorium unilaterally since then. New Delhi has not signed or ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. 

Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Nov. 11 that provisions of the deal are “broadly” in line with nuclear cooperation agreements India has signed. India agreements with several other countries, including France, Russia, and the United States.

India and Japan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that will allow New Delhi to purchase material and technologies from Japan for its civilian nuclear program. 

20 Years Later: United States, Japan, and Kazakhstan Reaffirm Support For The CTBT

The Stimson Center and the Arms Control Association hosted a panel discussion about the history and progress of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 20 years after it was signed on September 24, 1996. To date, 183 states have signed the treaty. Represented in the panel were senior officials from states that have been strong supporters of the treaty over the past 20 years. Rose Gottemoeller, the undersecretary for arms control and international security and Adam Scheinman, the special representative of the president of nuclear nonproliferation reiterated the United States’ strong support...

Worth Deferring: A Sino-Japanese Plutonium Production Race | ACA-FPI Forum



This forum, cohosted by the Arms Control Association and the Foreign Policy Initiative, addressed the emerging, “peaceful” nuclear rivalry between China, Japan and South Korea.

Japan has accumulated approximately 11 metric tons of separated plutonium—enough to make roughly 2,500 nuclear bombs—and plans to open a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing plant at Rokkasho in 2018 to strip enough plutonium from spent reactor fuel for an additional 1,500 nuclear warheads annually. China’s new five-year plan includes a proposal to import a reprocessing plant from France with the same capacity. South Korea, meanwhile, insists that it should have the same right to separate plutonium as Japan.

Speakers included :

  • Gordon Oehler, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Nonproliferation Center
  • Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Mark Holt, specialist in energy policy at the Congressional Research Service
  • Christopher Griffin, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative
  • Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association


This forum, cohosted by the Arms Control Association and the Foreign Policy Initiative, addressed the emerging, “peaceful” nuclear rivalry between China, Japan and South Korea.

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