RECNA Statement on “No-first-use” nuclear policy

Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA)

2016/07/22

 On July 10, 2016, one of the leading US newspapers, the Washington Post, reported that the Obama Administration is now considering new nuclear policies, including “no-first-use” of nuclear weapons. A no-first-use declatory policy could have important implications for “reducing the role of nuclear weapons,” which the Japanese government has repeatedly affirmed is an essential element in nuclear disarmament. This policy is mandated by the Final Document from the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the US has repeatedly promised to implement such a policy. Therefore, we would gladly welcome official announcement of a no-first-use policy. Having said that, we would like to highlight the following three important points regarding no-first-use.

1. No-first-use is insufficient.

 Some believe that no-first-use implies “approval of a second (retaliation) strike.” Thus, “no-first-use” is clearly not enough to bring about nuclear weapons abolition.  Any no-first-use policy should be seen as a step towards “de-legitimization” of nuclear weapons. The US needs to make more fundamental changes in its nuclear policies, which include: deep reductions in the number of nuclear warheads, cancellation of the modernization program, and de-alerting currently deployed nuclear weapons.

2. Security policies must not rely on nuclear deterrence.

 No-first-use policies are criticized as potentially undermining the credibility of “extended nuclear deterrence.” Even accepting the need for extended deterrence, it should be noted that no-first-use will not weaken deterrence; the US would still retain overwhelming conventional military power.  At the same time, it should be recognized that dependence on military deterrence, even with conventional weapons, could lead to an endless military arms race, which would negatively affect regional and international security. Therefore, the US and its allies must introduce regional and international confidence building measures, including a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ), to ensure that no-first-use will not reinforce conventional military deterrence capability.

3. The Japanese government should support a US no-first-use policy.

 It has been reported that the Japanese government is “concerned” that a US no-first-use policy would undermine the “nuclear umbrella”. If these reports are true, that attitude is profoundly regrettable. Japan is the only country ever attacked with nuclear bombs. The Japanese government has repeatedly called for “reducing the role of nuclear weapons”. Japan opposition to a US no-first-use initiative would represent a deep internal contradiction. Because Japan seeks the abolition of nuclear weapons, it should welcome a no-first-use declaration by the US and press for further actions that encourage nuclear disarmament.

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