In Northeast Asia, four nuclear-armed states joust for position. Three other regional actors also once tried to join the nuclear club: Japan during World War II and South Korea and Taiwan under authoritarian governments in the 1970s and 1980s. The fact that they didn’t is a non-proliferation success story. Washington forced the latter two to stand down and ensured that Japan saw no need for indigenous nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons continue to overshadow relationships and policies in Northeast Asia. North Korea withdrew from the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and the Six-Party Talks served as an inadequate confidence-building measure, and have been stalled since 2009. More recently, Donald Trump has suggested a different view about proliferation: that it might be fine for US allies to acquire nuclear weapons, and has called into question the relevance of NPT-based restraint, and non-proliferation and deterrence arrangements. Meanwhile, civil society has become energised by humanitarian disarmament initiatives, taking their governments by surprise. In 2016 the UN General Assembly voted to start negotiations in 2017 on a controversial new international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons for everyone.
Returning from the UN negotiations in March, Dr Rebecca Johnson will consider recent developments, challenges and options for strengthening non-proliferation and pursuing nuclear disarmament and security in these uncertain regional and global conditions. Drawing on his recent book, Asia’s Latent Nuclear Powers: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and his writings on North Korea, Mark Fitzpatrick will unveil the history of non-proliferation policy in Northeast Asia and offer a perspective on why it must – and probably will – continue.
About the contributors
Mark Fitzpatrick is Executive Director of the Americas office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and head of the IISS Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme. He is a co-founder of the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium. He joined IISS in October 2005 after a 26-year career in the US Department of State, including as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation (acting). His books include: Asia’s Latent Nuclear Powers: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, and The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: Avoiding worst-case outcomes.
Dr Rebecca Johnson
Dr Rebecca Johnson is Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. She is a frequent speaker at UN, academic and policy conferences, and has participated in every NPT Conference from 1994 to 2015. She published Disarmament Diplomacy until 2009, and authored ‘Arms Control and Disarmament’ in the 2013 Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Her books include: Trident and International Law: Scotland’s Obligations and Unfinished Business: The negotiation of the CTBT and the end of nuclear testing.