Kishida, Biden to call for China’s nuclear disarmament in joint statement

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade in Beijing in October 2019.

The Japanese and U.S. governments are making arrangements to call on China to pursue nuclear disarmament in a joint statement to be released after the summit between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden on Monday, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The joint statement is also likely to call for Beijing to increase transparency regarding its nuclear arsenal, and state the two leaders’ resolve to work together toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Kishida, a Diet representative of a constituency in the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima, has described nuclear disarmament as his “life’s work.”

Beijing has not disclosed the number of nuclear warheads it possesses, but according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China was estimated to possess 350 warheads as of January last year, compared with Russia’s 6,255 and the United States’ 5,550.

China could possess at least 1,000 by 2030, according to the institute.

While the United States and Russia have a nuclear disarmament framework — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which expires in 2026 — there is no forum for related talks between Washington and Beijing.

“China’s nuclear development is going unchecked,” a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

The Japanese and U.S. governments share the recognition that China’s involvement is essential to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

The inclusion of explicit calls for Chinese disarmament in a joint statement by the Japanese and U.S. leaders would be an exceptional move.

Biden, who served as vice president under Barack Obama — the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in 2016 — has expressed understanding regarding efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

In a teleconference in January, Kishida and Biden agreed to work together toward nuclear abolition.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in war, Tokyo and Washington believe the need to call for a world without nuclear weapons is growing more than ever before.

The two leaders are also expected to confirm cooperation toward the success of the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to be held in New York in August.

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe amid China’s hegemonic moves and North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile tests.

The United States and Japan are expected to include in the joint statement a guarantee that the U.S. military will provide Japan with extended deterrence that includes nuclear arms, while aiming for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the future.