Even though Japan is the only nation to have experienced the horror of atomic bombing, it blindly followed the Trump administration's tough new nuclear policy.

This reveals a complete lack of interest in efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Japan "highly appreciates" Trump's sweeping Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to allow the United States to flex its nuclear muscle in the name of nuclear deterrence.

This new policy promotes the use of smaller nukes that would be easier to use, possibly even against non-nuclear attacks.

"Nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament are not mutually exclusive," Kono said.

By its very nature, the NPR runs counter to the current of nuclear disarmament.

What will happen if, by lowering the bar on the use of nuclear weapons, a nuclear war erupts for an unforeseeable reason?

A study commissioned by the Foreign Ministry four years ago estimated that in a modern city of around 1 million souls, about 270,000 people would die if a Hiroshima class weapon detonated. A hydrogen bomb would take approximately 830,000 lives.

Japan understands all too well that nuclear weapons are inhumane, and it has a duty to lead the world in nuclear disarmament. Yet, this government thinks of nuclear issues only within the narrow framework of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The U.S. NPR coldly dismisses the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed by the United Nations last year, as "completely unrealistic." In going along with this policy, has Kono lost all interest in seeking common ground with international public opinion that supports this treaty?

In East Asia's security environment, it is a fact that Japan is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose nation shares the same protection, criticized the NPR to the effect that an escalation of the nuclear arms race will jeopardize Europe.

He argued that is precisely why Europe must move toward a new arms management and disarmament system.

Feb. 5 was the deadline set for the so-called New START Treaty, signed by the Obama administration and Russia, to meet the treaty's central limits on strategic arms. Both the United States and Russia announced their successful attainment of the target.

The world is now at a crucial crossroads. Will it proceed with nuclear arms expansion and proliferation, or with nuclear disarmament and abolition?

In spring 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama stood side-by-side in Hiroshima and expressed their joint resolve to realize a world without nuclear weapons. If Abe thinks he can scrap this resolve because the U.S. administration has changed, he is shamelessly irresponsible.

For years, the Japanese government was in the habit of presenting an annual nuclear abolition resolution to the United Nations, acting as a "bridge" between the world's nuclear and non-nuclear powers.

Japan must remind itself of this responsibility now.

Precisely because America is an ally, Japan must put a brake on the Trump administration's escalation of nuclear might and strive to explore an objective resolution to the North Korean problem.

The government also needs to work together with hibakusha organizations and hone its diplomatic skills to better communicate its resolve to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Japan ought to be doing all these things right now.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 7