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US PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s plan for a “more flexible” nuclear strategy which would involve building lower-yield nuclear bombs rang alarm bells around the world at the weekend.
The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, published on Friday, argues that the US should invest in smaller tactical nuclear missiles which could supposedly be used without triggering a global nuclear war.
Pentagon policy chief John Rood said the purpose would still be “deterrence,” but Defence Secretary James Mattis suggested the weapons could be used in response to a non-nuclear attack.
US generals have long pushed for smaller nuclear weapons that they hold would give them an edge in localised conflicts, but White House support for the strategy is new. In 2016, US journalist Joe Scarborough reported that Donald Trump had asked three times during one-hour foreign policy briefing why he couldn’t use nuclear weapons.
Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund disarmament group said the new strategy “greatly increases the risk of nuclear war.
“This strategy gives [Mr Trump] a massive rebuild of the current cold war arsenal, complete with new missions and new weapons, to include responding to a cyber attack with a nuclear bomb,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
China called on the US yesterday to abandon its “cold war mentality” and accept its “special and primary responsibility” for nuclear disarmament as the world’s leading nuclear power.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attacked the “confrontational” nature of the proposals. Moscow hinted at a new arms race, saying it would take “necessary measures” to ensure its security in response.
The “smaller” bombs mooted by the US were described as having a yield of 20 kilotons or less — still equivalent to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 that killed 70,000 people.
Washington, like its Nato allies Britain and France, has always asserted the “right” to make first use of nuclear weapons, something China and India have pledged never to do. The Soviet Union also maintained a no-first-strike policy but this was dropped by Russia in 1993. Only the US has ever actually used the weapons.
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