One obvious conclusion is that one nation stands alone as a dishonorable outlier, in last place in every field. There is good reason North Korea falls under its own separate category in the report. It is the only state to have withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the only state to have signed the treaty with the intention of violating it to develop nuclear weapons. Kim Il Sung showed interest in nuclear weapons since the early 1960s.
North Korea also violated the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States and the 1991 North-South Denuclearization Agreement, under which the two Koreas agreed to forgo uranium enrichment and reprocessing. More recently, North Korea violated the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six Party Talks and the 2012 Leap Day deal with the United States.
Beyond the nuclear sphere, North Korea adheres to almost none of the global non-proliferation instruments. It is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and will soon have the world’s largest arsenal of chemical weapons, after Russia and the United States complete destroying their Cold War stockpiles. North Korea’s estimated 2,500-5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents are two to four times larger than Syria’s stockpile. The only non-proliferation instrument North Korea has signed is the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which has no verification mechanism, so it is impossible to ascertain whether Pyongyang is honoring its provisions.
Japan is unfortunate to be within ballistic missile range of North Korea and its various weapons of mass destruction. Having worked on nuclear weaponization for over 20 years and having tested nuclear devices three times, North Korea probably can manufacture nuclear warheads small enough to fit the nosecone of its Nodong missiles. Whether such a warhead can be reliably delivered is another matter; North Korea has yet to test re-entry of a Nodong missile armed with a dummy nuclear warhead. Concerned nations need to pursue every possible diplomatic and counter-proliferation measure to halt the further development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs before these capabilities become even more threatening.
Unfortunately, the North Korean nuclear threat continues to escalate. Shortly after preparation of the Hiroshima Report, North Korea in spring 2013 tested a third nuclear device and issued unprecedented threats of nuclear destruction. Satellite imagery in late summer of facilities at Yongbyon indicate that North Korea has resumed operation of its plutonium production reactor, which had been dormant since 2007, and expanded the size of its uranium enrichment facility.
The threat posed by North Korea highlights the conundrum faced by Japan. An abhorrence of nuclear war motivates efforts to spur global disarmament. Springing from this motivation, the Hiroshima Report encourages all nations to give greater attention to all three areas of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear security. Japan this year for the first time endorsed a New Zealand-drafted statement in the UN General Assembly on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons' use. But Japan first asked New Zealand to drop language calling for "outlawing" nuclear weapons, since Japan still relies on US nuclear arms for protection.
Not every nation that talks disarmament walks the walk. China, for example, promotes every UN disarmament initiative but continues to expand its nuclear arsenal. And Russia gives higher priority to nuclear weapons as it falls further behind the United States in the conventional weapons sphere.
The growing nuclear threat facing Japan requires strong defense and deterrence capabilities. Japanese officials who bear responsibility to defend the nation occasionally have voiced unease about reductions in US nuclear arms that might signal a weakening of America’s extended deterrence. A few years ago, at the beginning of the Obama Administration, Japanese diplomats in Washington argued against US plans to eliminate Tomahawk nuclear cruise missiles from attack submarines. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada then sought unconvincingly to deny that the Japanese government was against retiring those weapons. The issue was overblown, because, as Jeffrey Lewis points out, Tomahawks are largely irrelevant to America’s extended deterrence. With or without nuclear-armed cruise missiles, the US remains committed to defending Japan. Indeed, US deterrence is all the more credible and real to the extent that it does not rely exclusively on nuclear weapons. The US has more than enough conventional might to respond to North Korean provocations, for example. Still, nuclear weapons remain key to American defense strategy, and hence to Japan’s defense. So Japan cannot logically call for them to be outlawed.
Reading over the Hiroshima Report, I am struck by the several ways that the United States could enhance its commitment to disarmament without negatively impacting Japan’s security. Among other steps, the US should further change its nuclear policy to state clearly that the "sole purpose" of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear weapons use by others. The US should also move toward de-alerting nuclear weapons, as was suggested in June by the new presidential guidance on US nuclear weapons employment strategy. In addition, the US should promptly ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and further reduce its nuclear arsenal, ideally in conjunction with further cuts to Russia's arsenal. Washington’s budget difficulties may even result in unilateral cuts.
Taking such steps would not undermine America's extended deterrence. In June, President Barack Obama announced in Berlin that a comprehensive review determined that the US could ensure its security and that of its allies and maintain a strong and credible nuclear deterrent with a third fewer deployed nuclear weapons. Future iterations of the Hiroshima Report thus may show the US earning higher marks. If only North Korea would earn higher marks as well.
Mr. Mark Fitzpatrick is a Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, International Institute for Strategic Studies.