Published: Sat, February 03, 2018

Pentagon pushes for new, low-yield nuclear weapons

Pentagon pushes for new, low-yield nuclear weapons

The Nuclear Posture Review calls for a development of a low-yield warhead option for USA submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

In the long term, the USA military will also develop a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.

Last year Pyongyang conducted three tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the mainland USA, as well as its sixth nuclear weapons test.

The goal of the NPR was to "keep America safe in this century with a deterrent that is modern and credible", and also to "give our diplomats leverage so they always speak from a position of strength", Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at the briefing.

The theory goes Russian Federation expects the US wouldn't use a high-yield nuclear weapon if it detonated a smaller, low-yield nuke.

The central claim of the Nuclear Posture Review is that the United States must expand its reliance on nuclear weapons to protect the country and its allies-a complete reversal of the Obama administration's effort to reduce reliance.

But Joseph Ciricione, a nonproliferation expert at the Ploughshares Fund, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks reductions in the nuclear arsenal, said the new strategy - combined with President Trump's volatile approach to global threats - could lower the threshold for employing nuclear weapons. Like Obama, Trump would consider using nuclear weapons only in "extreme circumstances", while maintaining a degree of ambiguity about what that means.

The Obama administration sought to shrink the role of nuclear weapons in US defense strategy.

"If we put nuclear weapons on cruise missiles and we launch conventional cruise missiles, how does Russian Federation know that they are conventional?" he said.

"President Trump is embarking on a reckless path - one that will reduce USA security both now and in the longer term", said Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A report summarising the review's findings called North Korea a "clear and grave threat" to the U.S. and its allies.

Similarly, the Nuclear Posture Review lists certain scenarios under which a retaliatory nuclear weapon use could be considered.

"There was a concern that if the other side thought that they could use nuclear weapons in a limited way and we didn't have a viable response - other than destroying human civilization - that they would be able to get away with it", Saunders said.

"The potential threat of non-state actors getting their hands on a nuclear weapon remains at the front of all of our minds", Shannon told reporters at a news conference held at the Pentagon.

"China, too, is modernizing and expanding its already considerable nuclear forces", according to the document.

"U.S. nuclear weapon modernization will cost about 6.4 percent of the current Department of Defense budget at its peak", said Michaela Dodge, a policy analyst specializing in nuclear weapons policy at Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, a conservative Washington-based think tank.

For example, the NPR seems to suggest nuclear weapons should deter all attacks (nuclear and non-nuclear), but it then specifies just strategic attacks, regardless of the weapons used.

"We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be", the NPR said, "given the range of potential adversaries, their capabilities and strategic objectives".

Mattis said Russian Federation and China are pursuing entirely new nuclear capabilities tailored to achieve particular national security objectives while also modernising its conventional military, challenging traditional United States military superiority. For example, it reiterates the long-standing position that the USA won't use or threaten use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their obligations.

In its report, the Trump administration said, although the USA will not seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it will continue to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Committee (CTBTO) as well as the International Monitoring System and the International Data Center.

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