Russia’s domineering acts stymie nuclear disarmament

Trying to justify the military use of nuclear power plants and turning its back on the international norm to promote nuclear disarmament is an act of hostility toward humanity at large. Intense anger is all that can be felt regarding Russia’s domineering acts.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which began at the United Nations on Aug. 1, broke down after the parties failed to unanimously adopt an agreement.

All blame lies with Russia, which was the only party to express opposition to the draft of the final document prepared by the chair in coordination with other parties.

The draft document emphasized the importance for Ukrainian authorities to secure control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is occupied by Russia. The original draft urged Russia to let Ukraine regain control of the nuclear power plant, but in order to reach a consensus, direct references to Russia were removed.

Despite such considerations, Russia maintained its opposition, citing the “political aspects” of the draft document. This self-righteousness in ignoring the international community’s sense of crisis regarding the situation is inexcusable.

On Thursday, a fire believed to have been caused by shelling temporarily cut off a transmission line necessary to run the nuclear reactor. The Russian military’s tactic is to use the power plant as a “nuclear shield,” stirring up fears of a nuclear disaster to make the occupation an established fact. This is despicable.

The international community needs to strongly press Russia to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to enter the site and create a system to control the safety of the nuclear power plant.

The NPT conference is a forum to discuss the promotion of the three pillars of the treaty: nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear power. With the failure of the previous conference in 2015, this is the first time that the conference has witnessed two consecutive breakdowns.

It is regrettable that Russia’s outrageous act has resulted in damaging the credibility of the NPT system amid a situation in which nuclear weapons are said to be at their highest possibility of being used since the end of the Cold War.

However, the fact that the conference broke down due to the opposition of Russia alone does not mean that the existence of the NPT system or the significance of the review conference, which went on nearly four weeks, has been lost. The draft final document referred to the continued non-use of nuclear weapons and the importance of reducing the number of nuclear weapons.

The NPT is the only framework that brings together the nuclear weapon states and nonnuclear weapon states to form a common understanding. “Maintaining and strengthening the NPT is the only realistic approach to nuclear disarmament,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed after attending the conference.

The situation over nuclear weapons is becoming increasingly severe; for example, China is enhancing its nuclear capability, including intermediate-range ballistic missiles, in addition to Russia’s recent behavior. While developing its deterrence, Japan must continue to emphasize the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and persistently promote an environment in which nuclear disarmament can be discussed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28. 2022)