361 Will China Keep its No First Use Policy?


Often the question arises whether China will adhere forever to its expressed policy of never being first to use nuclear weapons. Ellen Judd sees no reason why it would change, and Aaron Tovish agrees. Both of them also agree that China’s unlikely to go to war against Taiwan so long as there is no real change in Taiwan’s claims. There have long been extensive trade relations between the two regimes. Tovish is part of a group that has written an open letter to the heads of several nuclear weapons states calling for a common declaration of No First Use policy. They want to gather thousands of endorsements over the next month. That letter will be accessible on the comments column of this show. Geimer suggests that the NATO states could also declare that they want to remain part of NATO for most purposes, but do not want to be included in any “extended deterrence” promise from the U.S. Geimer is creating a peace school in Victoria, B.C. and his email address is visible on the screen while he is speaking about the school.


  • Ellen Judd
  • William Geimer
  • Aaron Tovish





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Fulfil the NPT: From Nuclear Threats to Human Security

An Open Letter to the States Parties of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Dear Representatives of China, France, Russia, the UK the USA and other States Parties to the NPT,
Nuclear weapons threaten current and future generations. The security they may have provided in the 20th Century has no place in the world of today and tomorrow, which is struggling to address the COVID pandemic, stabilise the climate, resolve national and international conflicts in peaceful ways, protect cyberspace, and advance human security and the sustainable development goals. 
It is time to start phasing out the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and develop a practical plan to achieve the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world. 
At the Tenth Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT-X) in January 2022, we call on you to:

  1. Start the process to permanently end arms racing and phase out the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines by supporting the adoption of no-first-use policies and cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons no later than the 11th NPT Review Conference in 2025;
  2. Commit to a timeframe of no later than 2045 to fulfil the Article VI obligation to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons;
  3. Agree to adopt a concrete plan to implement this commitment, including through the systematic and progressive reduction of nuclear arsenals, at the Conference on Disarmament or the 11th NPT Review Conference;
  4. Agree to shift budgets and public investments from the nuclear weapons industry to instead support public health, climate stabilization and sustainable development.

The NPT was adopted in 1970 for a fixed timeframe of 25 years, after which it was expected that it would be replaced by a more comprehensive nuclear disarmament regime. This did not happen. 
In 1995 the NPT was extended on the basis of three near-term (incremental) commitments – to achieve a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by 1996, to negotiate a fissile materials treaty and to establish additional nuclear-weapon-free zones especially in the Middle East – and a more comprehensive commitment by the nuclear armed States to reduce nuclear weapons in a process leading to their total elimination. Of these, only the CTBT has been negotiated, and it has yet to enter-into-force. 
There can be no excuse for not achieving the three incremental commitments in the near future, and the more comprehensive commitment – the global elimination of nuclear weapons – within the next 25 years, if not sooner.
A key measure to reduce the risk of a nuclear war and to start phasing out the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines while maintaining strategic stability, is to commit to never initiate nuclear warfare by adopting no-first-use (or sole purpose) policies and related operational controls. 
Options to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, and preparations to enable such a first-use, escalate tensions and risks, stimulate counter measures such as launch-on-warning, justify nuclear modernisation programs and prevent negotiations on nuclear disarmament. First-use options are literally playing with fire in very combustible situations, and have nearly led to a nuclear war being initiated by mistake or miscalculation. 
Unilateral no-first-use declarations, bilateral no-first-use agreements and/or a multilateral no-first-use agreement can reduce these risks. We commend China and India for already adopting unilateral no-first-use policies and we commend China and Russia for adopting a bilateral no-first-use agreement. These can be followed by nuclear force restructuring and operational controls to implement no-first-use policies, and to build credibility and confidence in the policies to further reduce nuclear risks. 
And most importantly, the adoption of no-first-use or sole purpose policies could open the door to the nuclear armed states and their allies joining negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. If nuclear weapons are required to deter against a range of threats – not only nuclear weapons – then countries relying on nuclear deterrence will most likely not agree to eliminate the weapons while these other threats still exist. However, if the only purpose of a country’s nuclear weapons is to deter against the nuclear weapons of others, then the country can agree to join a verified nuclear disarmament process as long as all other nuclear armed countries participate. For this reason, the States Parties to the NPT also need to engage with the states which are not parties (India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan) in the nuclear disarmament process. 

We thank the governments of China, France, Russia, the UK, USA and other States Parties to the NPT for considering this letter, and we look forward to supporting and engaging with you as you adopt these policies and as we jointly establish the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world. 

Endorse the Letter Here: https://nofirstuse.global/fulfil-the-npt-from-nuclear-threats-to-human-security/

Last edited 2 years ago by Aaron Tovish

Dear nuclear powers: Don’t even THINK about starting a nuclear war!

Some plain speaking in conjunction with the release of a NoFirstUse Global Open Letter to the States Parties of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Dear President Biden, President Putin, President Xi, Prime Minister Johnson and President Macron (with copies to Prime Minister Modi, Prime Minister Khan, Prime Minister Herzog and Supreme Leader Kim),
By now you will have received a “preview” of the Open Letter that is being circulating by NoFirstUse.Global with the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Tenth Review Conference (NPT-X) in mind. I/We write this letter just in case the calm and respectful tone of the Open Letter leads you to believe you can safely ignore it. The cost of ignoring it, of course, has nothing to do with direct consequences to your persons; it has everything to do with the danger to all of humanity and the precious world we call home. So please, listen up!
The plain truth is that you have shamelessly abused the privileges accorded to you under the NPT.
Whereas just about all of the States parties to the NPT have, for over half a century, scrupulously honoured their obligations to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons, placing their nuclear energy facilities under safeguards, each of you blithely continues to allocate vast financial and human resources to acquiring nuclear weapons, including “modernising” and deploying them. Collectively you spend around $100 billion per year on these activities – resources that are acutely needed to address public health and the pandemic, the climate crisis, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and sustainable development.
And while – thank goodness! — you do not threaten to escalate to nuclear warfare against NNWSs that are not allied to your nuclear adversaries, four of you (China excepted) continue to threaten, and prepare for, such escalation against nuclear armed states and their allies. This puts the world on the brink of nuclear every time a crisis develops between you and a nuclear armed adversary. How can you even THINK about starting a nuclear war?
Basically, on both these scores what the Open Letter says is: “Enough is enough!”
To get to the root of this pile-up, let’s start at the beginning. 
By 1964, nuclear weapons had proliferated to five countries (yours). When negotiations began on curbing further proliferation, the three your countries (UK, USA, & USSR) involved in the talks made it clear that the restrictions would only apply to “horizontal proliferation”, i.e., further geographic spread, not “vertical proliferation”, i.e., further increases in existing arsenals. Since the world was witnessing an unbridled competition for greater explosive power and numbers of nuclear weapons, with nuclear explosion being conducted almost weekly, the non-nuclear-weapon states persisted until they extracted a commitment from the three nuclear-weapon states on “cessation of the nuclear arms at any early date.” 
Fourteen years after the NPT entered into force, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev acknowledged that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, pledging to “not seek to achieve military superiority.” To many that meant an end to the nuclear arms race and, indeed, several nuclear arms reduction measures followed. By the time the States Parties met to consider extension of the original term in force of the treaty in 1995, negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty were – at last! – nearing completion. With arm-racing apparently a thing of the past, agreement was reached to extend the treaty indefinitely on the basis on a commitment by the NWSs to make “systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons.” 
So how is it then that the world is again confronted with a nuclear arms race?
Racing for greater numbers and greater yields was addressed by reductions and the test ban, but not the drive for new roles for and uses of nuclear weapons. After the late 1970s, notwithstanding a small circle of nuclear mandarins still harbouring delusions of “nuclear primacy”, it was widely recognized that no matter how many nuclear weapons were launched in a first strike, they could not successfully suppress a devastating nuclear retaliation.  Another form of superiority — “escalation dominance” — continued, however, to hold sway. 
In case anyone has forgotten, the “logic” of escalation dominance goes as follows. There is no point in escalating to nuclear warfare if it does not yield a decisive advantage.  Indeed, the threat to escalate lacks credibility unless at “each rung of the escalation ladder” it would be wisest for the enemy to back down. An entire array of specialize nuclear weapons were called upon to ensure such dominance from nuclear “warning shots” to all-out war. When dominance is in effect, the enemy should be deterred from capitalizing on a conventional advantage out of fear of triggering a spiral of nuclear escalation in which he cannot prevail.
Arguably, the USA asserted escalation dominance over the USSR from the 1950s into the 1970s.  Even when the logic no longer really applied, it continued to drive weapon acquisition decisions. Until recently, the USA could assert escalation dominance over the PRC. Clearly, a major motive for China’s current expansion of its nuclear arsenal is to disabuse the US of any notion of escalating to nuclear warfare. In this context, it is very important that the US and its allies recognizes that nuclear escalation is a dead-end strategy. Indeed, there is no setting in which any of you can benefit by initiating nuclear war. Pretending otherwise, by feigning suicidal madness for example, simply courts disaster.
Thus, the Open Letter calls upon you to:
Start the process to permanently end arms racing and phase out the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines by supporting the adoption of no-first-use policies and the cessation of the acquisition of nuclear weapons no later than the 11th NPT Review Conference in 2025;
Our call for an end to nuclear weapon acquisition is meant not only to put a practical brake on nuclear arms racing, but also to begin the process of eliminating the explicitly discriminatory (NWS vs NNWS) nature of the nonproliferation regime.  What sense does it make that because you five started the proliferation ball rolling, that you should be exempt from the restraints placed upon those who have not proliferated?! 
The Open Letter generously allocates up to five years for you to get your acts together. The sooner you can declare a policy of No First Use, the better – like immediately. What could take more time is weeding out all plans and preparations for first use. Likewise, acquisition plans can be cancelled forthwith. Some of you have declared moratoria of the production of weapon-grade fissile material. Good, but not nearly good enough. Your vast stockpiles of such materials allow you to continue to modernize your arsenals without further production. Working out – and funding – the arrangements for the IAEA to monitor the closure of all your nuclear-weapon-acquisition facilities and downgrade your stockpiles of weapon-grade fissile materials, should be doable by 2025.
As NWSs, you are under treaty obligation, underscored in 1995, to eliminate your nuclear arsenals. What kind of “good faith” have you shown by meeting year-after-year and producing nothing more than a “Glossary of nuclear weapons terms”! Since you seem to be at a total loss on how to proceed, the Open Letter makes a vital suggestion (points (b) and (c)):
Commit to a timeframe of no later than 2045 to fulfil the Article VI obligation to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons; and agree to adopt a concrete plan to implement this commitment, including through the systematic and progressive reduction of nuclear arsenals, at the Conference on Disarmament or the NPT-XI.
Before you start thinking, “Well, no rush there.” Remember that the NPT review process was strengthened in 1995 as part of the extension decision. It provides for annual meetings of the “Preparatory Committee” between review conferences. The hiatus in 2020 and 2021 was the exception to the rule due to the pandemic. You (and the Conference on Disarmament) will be called to account every year. If necessary, even stronger means of accountability can be brought to bear.
At this late date, please give us “an early date” — obviously nothing later than 2045 the 75th anniversary of the NPT and the 100th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – for completing this task.
The final demand, (d), of the Open Letter is:
Agree to shift budgets and public investments from the nuclear weapons industry to instead support public health, climate stabilization and sustainable development.
The ongoing public health crisis and its glaring inequalities, cast a stark light on the obscene quantities of cash being shovelled into the nuclear arms industry (not to mention arms in general). Meanwhile the planet is on a slow burn and progress toward the Millenium Sustainable Development Goal has stalled. There is something deeply amiss with your priorities. It’s past time to wake up to this reality.
Separately, NFU.G participating organizations have also appeal to the States not Parties to the NPT, to attend NPT-X and subsequent NPT Preparatory Committee Meetings as observers, and to engage in concrete nuclear risk reduction and disarmament plans. India is one big step ahead with its longstanding no-first-use policy and posture. Pakistan needs to catch up. In the case of Israel, the UN deliberations on establishing a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone provide a pathway to nuclear disarmament while maintaining national security. In the case of North Korea, re-invigoration of the peace and denuclearization process initiated at the 2018 Winter Olympics would provide a secure pathway to denuclearised a Korean peninsula at peace at last.
NPT-X could go down in history as the great turning point of the Nuclear Age. NoFirstUse.Global is ready to engage with you to pursue common security instead of military superiority. We are ready to help you to end the threat of nuclear war and to build the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Now.

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