Photo/Illutration An intercontinental ballistic missile at an air base in the U.S. state of Montana in February 2021 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Anxieties about nuclear warfare have spread around the world, and the current crisis should lead to fresh momentum in international efforts to prevent the use of nuclear arms and abolish them.

The U.S. Defense Department has published an outline of the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, which describes the principles for the nuclear arms strategy of President Joe Biden’s administration.

The review reaffirms the U.S. adherence to its nuclear deterrence strategy, which means the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter attack on the United States and its allies.

The policy has left open the possibility that the United States could use nuclear weapons to counter not only a nuclear attack from an enemy but also an attack involving conventional, biological or chemical weapons.

The document shows the Biden administration will basically keep the traditional U.S. policy unchanged.

Despite its pledge to make progress toward the ideal of “a world without nuclear weapons” propounded by the Obama administration, the Biden White House has ended up continuing with the approach maintained by successive U.S. governments.

Some policymakers within the administration have argued for limiting the role of nuclear weapons to deterrence against nuclear attack and retaliation. But the administration has reportedly dropped the idea in consideration of key U.S. allies including Japan.

In recent years, China has been expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

Amid growing concerns about China’s nuclear buildup, Russia has waged a war of aggression against one of its neighbors and gone so far as to threaten to use nuclear arms.

Washington is now apparently worried that reducing the role of its nuclear arms could undermine the credibility of its “nuclear umbrella.”

There is no doubt the United States and other countries are under pressure to redesign the system for international security.

One question policymakers should tackle with maximum vigor and care is how to protect the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, one of the main pillars of the global security architecture to prevent Armageddon.

The spread of the notion that no country can defend itself without nuclear weapons would eventually open the door to a nuclear arms race.

The risk of nuclear devastation stemming from regional conflict and terrorism would rise sharply.

We must prevent the dangerous process of the “me first” mindset among countries from growing into a powerful evil force that pushes the world toward catastrophe.

All major nuclear powers, including Russia, must do serious soul-searching about their failure to fulfill their responsibility to protect the nuclear nonproliferation system.

The 2022 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review also underscores the U.S. commitment to re-establishing its leadership in arms control.

Washington should be true to its word and set out on serious efforts for nuclear arms reduction involving Russia and China.

Russia’s behavior over the past month or so has cast a frightening light on the essential danger of nuclear arms.

We have awakened to the reality that if a national leader who has his fingers on the nuclear button drifts away from rational thinking, nuclear deterrence will no longer work.

It must be clearly recognized that we have no fundamental solution to this problem other than eliminating nuclear weapons from the world, no matter how formidable the challenge may be.

As long as the world is gripped by the doctrine of countering the threat of nuclear weapons with the same threat, the human race will have to continue living with a huge existential danger.

The Kishida administration, which represents the only country that has ever suffered wartime nuclear attacks, needs to come up with a new approach to overcoming massive obstacles to progress toward a world without nuclear weapons and establishing a new order of peace in the world.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 1