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US must give up its double standards on non-proliferation

By Yi Xin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-16 13:50
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The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at its headquarters in Vienna, on June 7, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

At the recent 10th review conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), US President Joe Biden reiterated his country's determination to be "a responsible steward" of the world's nuclear arsenal and its commitment to "the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons". He also urged other countries, most notably Russia and China, not to "resist substantive engagement on arms control and nuclear non-proliferation".

Biden's words may appear reasonable at first sight, until one checks the US' fluid approach on this very issue. It does not require a discerning eye to find the discrepancies between what the US says and what it does, as well as when this issue applies to different countries. In other words, Washington's yardstick is not about disarmament per se, but whether it is "with us or against us". If the US is serious about becoming a responsible member of the international non-proliferation regime, it must first stop the play of double standards.

Internally, the US never stops building up its nuclear capability:

Already being the world's No.1 nuclear power, the US is still upgrading its existing warheads while developing nuclear weapons of the next generation. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the US possesses 5,550 warheads, 3,800 of which are maintained by the Department of Defense, including 1,400 currently deployed on intercontinental missiles. In the US' 2023 budget, 34.4 billion dollars are to be used on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, a major increase over the 27.7 billion dollars in the 2022 budget. Of the 34.4 billion, 6.3 billion will be spent on Columbia-class strategic nuclear submarines and 4.8 billion on upgrading the nuclear command system.

It is also no secret that the US has been making low-yield nuclear weapons, such as the W76-2 warheads already deployed on its Trident submarines. These low-yield warheads can strike with greater precision. This US move, which clearly lowers the nuclear threshold, is challenged by many countries in the world.

Externally, the US never gives up using non-proliferation as a geopolitical instrument to maintain its supremacy:

Across the Atlantic, for example, the US has "nuclear sharing" with its NATO allies. This is a typical product of the Cold War era. However, instead of being discarded, as it should have been years ago, such arrangements remain active this day. The transparency and necessity of the "nuclear sharing" have been questioned by many countries throughout the years. The NPT conferences have been calling for a "diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies", but the US and NATO never disclose the exact number of US nuclear warheads based in Europe.

In Northeast Asia, while bashing the DPRK for making bombs and testing missiles, the US has worked with Japan and the ROK to explore additional means to reinforce the so-called "extended deterrence", a move that makes the region less secure.

In the Asia Pacific, the US has launched the AUKUS, an exclusive circle that runs counter to the purposes and principles of the NPT and undercuts the international non-proliferation regime. This trilateral formation allows the US and the UK to help Australia build nuclear submarines and jointly develop super-sonic weapons. It also enables, for the first time since the birth of the NPT, a nuclear-weapon state to provide tons of weapon-grade nuclear materials to a non-nuclear weapon state. By so doing, the US has obviously put its NPT obligation of preventing nuclear proliferation under its geopolitical calculus, not to mention the negative repercussions this would have on the Korean nuclear issue and Iran nuclear issue.

In addition, the US' hypocrisy on non-proliferation is also reflected in its half-hearted commitment even to treaties of its own making:

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (known as P5 plus one) through painstaking negotiations. It is a UN-recognized international agreement that stands as a successful example of addressing security issues through diplomacy. The preposterous US withdrawal from the deal, under the Trump administration, has thwarted the whole effort. Such flip-flops have undercut the world's confidence in the international non-proliferation regime. Also, the crippling, unilateral US sanctions have inflicted miseries on innocent Iranian people during the COVID pandemic, further exposing the self-serving nature of the US. The negotiations to bring the US back to the deal have been on and off again since this April. It was mostly the EU acting as a go-between, with the world waiting to see if the US and Iran could agree on the proposed "final text".

In fact, the US' double-standard is not only on nuclear non-proliferation, but on other weapons of mass destruction as well. The US is the only country that disagrees with the establishment of a verification mechanism for biological weapons. The US is infamously known for its biological experiments in various places of the world, many of which are suspected to be developing weapons under the disguise of research. While accusing Russia for using chemical and biological weapons, the US never really discloses full information on the many bio-labs it owns.

The US portrays itself as a guardian of global peace and justice, and demands China and other countries to join arms-control negotiations. But to convince others, the US must, in its own words, genuinely "lead by example". To begin with, the US must give up its double standards on nuclear non-proliferation and arms control and stop using this as a geopolitical instrument, before contributing its due share to world peace.

Yi Xin is a Beijing-based observer of current affairs.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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