RECNA’s Statement on the Collapse of the INF Treaty

February 4, 2019

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,i agreed by the United States and the USSR in 1987, opened a path to the end of the Cold War by obligating both parties to reduce their nuclear weapons for the first time in history. On February 2 of this year, the United States issued a formal notice of its intent to withdraw from the treaty that once marked a historical turning point from the nuclear arms race to nuclear disarmament. Russia’s response – an announcement to suspend the implementation of its obligations under the treaty – virtually constitutes the last nail in the coffin for a treaty that has long been a foundation for efforts to prevent nuclear war. RECNA strongly condemns both the United States and Russia for their actions. We also urge the Japanese government to oppose any possible deployment of INF, as well as to develop and present a vision toward nuclear disarmament in Northeast Asia.

We strongly condemn the US and Russia. Their decisions are a violation of international law and will increase the risk of nuclear war.

The INF Treaty has embodied a recognition that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” (Joint Statement of Geneva Summit in 1985). It served not only as a critical nuclear disarmament treaty, but also as a significant means to prevent nuclear war. The United States has accused Russia of deploying prohibited missiles to justify its withdrawal from the treaty. However, it is not only Russia but also the United States that is evidently returning to more “usable” nuclear weapons. The US withdrawal will never lead to any meaningful solution. If the United States and Russia — the largest nuclear powers, possessing approximately 92% of all nuclear warheads in the world — return to a race to win a nuclear war, it will be an act of absolute folly.

Furthermore, the termination of the INF Treaty might lead to a failure to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).ii It is a violation of their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a disrespect for an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996.iii This may cause a lawsuit with the ICJ against the United States and Russia for their violations of Article VI. As nuclear superpowers bearing the gravest responsibility to implement the article, the United States and Russia should never disrespect the rule of law governing nuclear disarmament.

We strongly urge the United States and Russia to suspend their development and deployment of new types of nuclear weapons entirely and to resume nuclear disarmament talks.

Japan should oppose any INF deployment. A vision for disarmament in Northeast Asia is needed.

Japan’s nuclear disarmament diplomacy and policy are also being tested. The Japanese government should reaffirm its Three Non-Nuclear Principles (not possessing, not producing, and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons). It also should take a steadfast position opposing any possible INF deployment not only in Japan, but also in South Korea as part of its efforts to achieve the denuclearization of Korean Peninsula as articulated in the Panmunjom Declaration agreed in April 2018.

After announcing his intension to pull out of the INF Treaty, President Trump hinted that he would like to see a “new treaty that would be much better,” indicating a possibility of considering a new agreement involving China, which is currently not bound by the treaty, in addition to Russia. Japan should regard such a suggestion as an opportunity and develop a vision to promote nuclear disarmament in Northeast Asia and take a leading role in facilitating dialogues. Developing such a vision and implementation strategy that can promote the processes of nuclear disarmament and denuclearization of Northeast Asia simultaneously will greatly contribute to enhancing Japan’s security.


i The INF Treaty obligates the United States and the USSR/Russia to eliminate their intermediate-range (between 500 km and 5,500 km) ballistic and cruise missiles carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. Extensive verification mechanisms, including on-site inspection, are provided. The treaty is applicable only to their ground-based missiles, not to their air- and sea-based missiles. The treaty was signed by President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in December 1987, and entered into force in June 1988.

ii New START was signed by President Barack Obama of the United States and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia in April 2010, and entered into force in February 2011. Within seven years of the entry into force, the two countries were required to reduce their nuclear arsenals so that each side has no more than 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Both nations announced that they had met the treaty’s limits by February 2018. The treaty will expire in February 2021, but it can be extended for an additional five years.

iii Against the background of the international demand to abolish nuclear weapons, the United Nations General Assembly asked the ICJ for an advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapon in 1994. In July 1996, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion stating that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would “generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law,” but also stated that it “cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” The 14 judges unanimously agreed that, under the Article VI of the NPT, all parties are obligated “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations” leading to nuclear disarmament. This judgment laid the important foundation of the international movement leading to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

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