U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is once again going to call for "a world without nuclear weapons," which was the banner of the administration of President Barack Obama.
In the four years since the Obama administration ended, the United States forged ahead in the nuclear arms race. The U.S. pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia, and deployed mini-nukes.
It also abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that it signed with Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia. And despite the multiple summits that have been held between the U.S. and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea has not let go of its nuclear weapons.
It is clear that U.S. President Donald Trump's policies have bolstered the threat of nuclear weapons. They have also undercut allies' confidence in the U.S.
The upcoming change of government should be used as an opportunity to return to a policy of aiming for the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons, leading to nuclear disarmament.
The closest challenge coming up is extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the U.S. and Russia, which is set to expire in February 2021. It is a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty that limits the number of nuclear warheads, among other things.
Long-range missiles and ballistic missiles are within the scope of the treaty. But the newest weapons, such as hypersonic weapons, and warheads for intermediate and short-range missiles are not restricted under the agreement.
The U.S. and Russia have pretty much agreed to freeze the number of all nuclear warheads and enter into discussions. It is necessary to extend the treaty, and lead the current stage into comprehensive negotiations.
What poses a problem, however, is the conflict of interest that arises between the two countries when it tries to maintain military balance while trying to decrease the role of nuclear weapons as a deterrent force.
The U.S. will be at an overwhelming advantage due to the scale of the non-nuclear weapons that it has in its possession. The Obama administration explained that even if it went forward with the reduction of nuclear weapons, the powerful non-nuclear weapons that it has would have a deterrent force equivalent to that of nuclear weapons.
Russia, meanwhile, is taking the lead ahead of the U.S. in the development of nuclear weapons. It is wary that if it were to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons, it would be put at a disadvantage due to the lack of non-nuclear weapons that it has in comparison to the U.S.
Agreement on the issue will not be easy, but what is needed at the moment is tenacious negotiations.
Efforts toward non-proliferation must also be revived. The U.S. should join the Iran nuclear deal again, and resume discussions with North Korea. That will lead to confidence in the U.S.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is slated to go into effect as early as January 2021. The review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is also set to take place. We hope these two events will help accelerate the move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has long dangled the possible use of nuclear weapons as a threat in foreign negotiations. And to counteract that, other countries have been forced to possess nuclear weapons or beef up their nuclear weapons arsenals. This chain reaction of negativity must be severed.