Beyond 1995 pp 107-116 | Cite as

The NPT and Nuclear Proliferation in East Asia

Views toward the 1990s
  • Ryukichi Imai
Part of the Issues in International Security book series (IIS)


With the exception of China, none of the states of East Asia has developed nuclear weapons. Is this attributable to the NPT or to other factors? In retrospect, one can argue that there never has been a realistic combination of political, military, and technical opportunities for nuclear armament in the region, even to the minimum level implied in the NPT regime. This observation, of course, is not inconsistent with the view that in the absence of the NPT and the discouragement of proliferation the treaty inspired, things could have been different. Nevertheless, nuclear powers do not emerge ex nihilo; nations seek to possess nuclear weapons out of an urge toward world (or regional) military hegemony, in the desire to defend or deter against threats by powerful neighbors, or as a matter of prestige in a rivalry between two or more states aspiring to regional or global status. In East Asia, all of these factors were present at one time or another. However, the appearance of any one of these motivations for nuclear weapons never coincided with the capability to develop nuclear weapons in an East Asian state, except for China. Today, with the increasing level of sophistication required for nuclear arsenals that could be useful militarily, the possibility of any new or renascent nuclear aspirations in the region is minimal, and any chance of their attainment is extremely unlikely. The only exception is the case of a country or a group of countries willing to become, in effect, international terrorists with a small number of crude bombs, another luxury that does not seem possible in East Asia. In this chapter, the difficulties of developing militarily significant nuclear arsenals will be addressed, as will nuclear weapons and nonproliferation developments in East Asia, both regionally and by country. Finally, a look forward to the 1990s with special attention to East Asia will be offered.


Nuclear Weapon Ballistic Missile Nuclear Proliferation Nuclear Armament Nuclear Disarmament 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1990

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  • Ryukichi Imai

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