Building on their important series of opinion articles that gave momentum to President Obama's nuclear disarmament efforts, America's four senior statesmen — Kissinger, Shultz, Nunn and Perry — have again weighed into the global nuclear debate.

Their new joint article in The Wall Street Journal looks at the future of nuclear deterrence, and specifically how to move towards increasingly non-nuclear forms of deterrence in the context of pursuing a world without nuclear weapons.

This theme touches closely on the security concerns of Indo-Pacific Asia, and indeed chimes with the Lowy Institute's current major initiative with the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Nuclear Security Project, in which we examine the future of extended deterrence in the region, and whether there are realistic prospects to reduce its nuclear component. 

This project is being conducted through expert workshops in SydneyBeijing and Seoul, in our robust and continuing blog debate, and in a forthcoming book with contributions from Australian, Japanese, Chinese, South Korean and American experts.

The new Kissinger-Shultz-Perry-Nunn op-ed is of course only the start of a process, not the last word. It makes a broad point about the need for the US to work with its allies in exploring whether there are alternatives to extended nuclear deterrence. But as our blog debate has shown, that is going to be an exceptionally challenging conversation. It is clear that there will be need to be careful attention to China's military modernisation (conventional and nuclear), North Korea's actions and the concerns of America's Asian allies as discussion on this issue gets underway in the US. 

Asia, not Europe, is where the world's nuclear dangers are greatest, and where the problem of somehow juggling disarmament, deterrence and stability are at their most wicked.

The Nuclear Reactions column is supported by the Nuclear Security Project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, as part of a wider partnership between the NSP and the Lowy Institute. Photo by Flickr user stevec77.