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Daryl G. Kimball

Curbing the North Korean Nuclear Threat

The new administration of President Donald Trump has a rapidly closing window of opportunity to pull back from potential escalation and war and pursue a diplomatic course.

April 2017

By Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs are the most urgent nuclear proliferation challenges today. The new administration of President Donald Trump, along with U.S. allies and partners in Northeast Asia, have a rapidly closing window of opportunity to pull back from potential escalation and war and pursue a diplomatic course that halts and eventually reverses Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

The North Korean flag is seen past the barbed wire fencing of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 27, 2017. (Photo credit: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)Last month during his first official visit to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated that the previous administration’s policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea had reached a dead end. Indeed, a policy focused solely on international pressure, absent engagement, has not worked.

With an interagency policy review underway, Tillerson and the new Trump team are in search of a more effective policy. Time is not on Washington’s side.

North Korea already has the capability to deliver a warhead on a short- or medium-range ballistic missile. With more nuclear tests, North Korea can further refine its warhead designs to increase the explosive yield and develop a lighter, more compact warhead. North Korea’s next nuclear test explosion, which would be its sixth, could be imminent.

North Korea is estimated to have some 50 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 10 nuclear explosive devices. International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano said on March 20 that North Korea has doubled its capacity to produce highly enriched uranium. By 2020, it may have enough fissile material for 100 warheads. Worse yet, it could soon begin flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

If the current action-reaction cycle continues, it will not only diminish the prospect of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but it will increase the risk of a devastating nuclear war.

In its review of past U.S. strategy toward North Korea, the Trump team should recognize that when there has been success in curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear program, as there was between 1994 and 2002 as a result of the Agreed Framework, U.S. policy effectively integrated diplomacy and pressure to create significant incentives for North Korea to meet nonproliferation obligations and strong disincentives for failure to do so.

Once again, a strategy of coercive diplomacy, focused initially on aggressive and sustained diplomacy to secure phased denuclearization, offers the best prospect for success. If this effort fails, Washington can still significantly escalate pressure commensurate with the severity of North Korean actions.

When Trump and Tillerson meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month, they should emphasize the need to strictly enforce existing sanctions and jointly pledge not to seek new sanctions as long as North Korea acts with restraint.

To move forward, Trump should take note of Pyongyang’s statement from July 2016, which called for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, to make clear that the United States remains committed to denuclearization as the end state of the process. If North Korea is willing to negotiate, initial talks should focus on obtaining a moratorium to prevent additional nuclear and ballistic missile tests in order to buy time for a more far-reaching and lasting solution.

For that, the United States will need to be prepared in return to put something on the table. In consultation with the incoming government in Seoul, Washington should consider scaling back or delaying the next round of joint military exercises with South Korea. The exercises could be scaled up if North Korea breaks off talks or conducts further nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

If the initial moratorium holds, North Korea and the United States could proceed to steps that would roll back Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, including a verifiable halt to fissile material production that would be monitored by international inspectors at North Korea’s nuclear sites. In return, the United States might extend to North Korea limited sanctions relief and negative security assurances against military attack under certain conditions.

To maintain leverage, the United States and its partners must strengthen implementation of existing UN Security Council sanctions. China’s decision to halt coal imports from North Korea is a good start. The latest report of the UN panel of experts on sanctions against North Korea said that the Security Council must compel better enforcement by imposing penalties against non-North Koreans involved in evasion.

Other policy approaches pose very high risks and have lower chances of success. New sanctions without an offer of talks would be opposed by China, and North Korea would, as leader Kim Jong Un said Jan. 1, “continue to build up” its nuclear forces, which he sees as a guarantor of regime survival. Pre-emptive U.S. military strikes would be operationally difficult and provoke a strong, likely military response from Pyongyang that could trigger a second Korean War.

A new policy that tries negotiations first and then puts pressure on North Korea if its intransigence scuttles diplomacy will not guarantee success, but it offers the best chance for curbing the North Korean nuclear threat.

Posted: March 28, 2017

Trump administration to review goal of world without nuclear weapons: aide

News Source: 
News Date: 
March 22, 2017 -04:00

Posted: March 27, 2017

NSC Official: Trump May Abandon Goal of Nuclear Disarmament

News Source: 
Roll Call
News Date: 
March 22, 2017 -04:00

Posted: March 27, 2017

Start of Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks A Historic Step Forward



Press Statement on the Start of Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks


Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, D.C.)—Today at the United Nations in New York, multilateral negotiations on a new “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination” will commence.

A view of the UN General Assembly Hall as Taous Feroukhi of Algeria (on screen), president of the 2015 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, closed the session May 22, 2015. The month-long conference concluded without a consensus on a final document that would have established specific steps to speed nuclear disarmament, advance nonproliferation efforts, and work toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. [Photo credit: Eskinder Debebe/UN]The talks, which may conclude by the end of the year, are not an all-in-one solution to address today’s growing array of nuclear weapons-related dangers. But a new nuclear weapons prohibition treaty could be a useful and timely contribution to the seven-decade long struggle to reduce the threats posed by the Bomb.

Although the world’s nuclear-armed states are boycotting the negotiations, this unprecedented new process could help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use. This is a worthy goal that is consistent with the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the requirement established by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires all states to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Contrary to some skeptics’ beliefs, this process is not a distraction from other disarmament work, nor will it undermine the NPT. In fact, the strong support for negotiations on a ban treaty is a logical and constructive international response to the failure of key nuclear-armed states to fulfill key commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference to further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons.

Rather than get in the way of progress by lobbying against the negotiations, we call on U.S. President Trump and his administration to respect efforts by the world’s non-nuclear weapons majority to prohibit nuclear weapons and to reaffirm the United States' commitment to meet its NPT obligations and to continue to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

With only four weeks to negotiate the new treaty this year, the process will not be easy. To be effective, the new treaty will need to:

  • Specify which activities related to nuclear weapons possession, nuclear sharing planning, development, production, and testing are prohibited.
  • Be consistent with existing treaties that prohibit or limit certain nuclear weapons-related activities, including the NPT.
  • Provide for pathways by which states that now possess nuclear weapons, or are part of alliances with nuclear-armed states, can support the new nuclear weapons prohibition treaty before they become a full-fledged member of new instrument.

The negotiators should seek a formula that is meaningful but also draws the widest possible support from states participating in the negotiation.

Achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons requires bold and sustained action. The coming ban treaty negotiations are not an all-in-one solution, but do represent an important and new contribution.

Additional Resources:
1) A Both/And Approach: Next Steps on Disarmament and the Role of the Ban Treaty, Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, at the “Global and Regional Nuclear Orders in a Moment of Geopolitical Uncertainty" Roundtable, March 16, 2017

2) Preparations Made for Ban Talks, by Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Arms Control Today, March 2017.

3) Controversial Nuclear Ban Talks to Begin, by Kingston Reif, Arms Control Today, December 2016


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Subject Resources:

Posted: March 27, 2017

While Trump talks tough, US quietly cutting nuclear force

News Source: 
Boston Globe
News Date: 
March 19, 2017 -04:00

Posted: March 20, 2017

A Both/And Approach: Next Steps on Disarmament and the Role of the Ban Treaty



Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball at the “Global and Regional Nuclear Orders in a Moment of Geopolitical Uncertainty” roundtable, Thursday, March 16, 2017 at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room


Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Roundtable on “Global and Regional Nuclear Orders in a Moment of Geopolitical Uncertainty"
Thursday, March 16, 2017, 1:00-3:00 PM
United Nations, UN Delegates Dining Room

Through the years, the international nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation enterprise, though imperfect has curbed nuclear proliferation, forced reductions in major-power nuclear arsenals, ended nuclear testing by all but one state, and created an informal taboo against nuclear weapons use.

But today, there are some very tough challenges that pose a serious threat to the international nuclear order.

Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are on the rise. Progress on the next steps on nuclear disarmament as outlined in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan is stalled.

Washington and Moscow are on track to replace their excessive nuclear arsenals at enormous cost; other nuclear-armed states are slowly improving their capabilities; North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, if not capped through a new diplomatic initiative, could soon give Pyongyang the operational capability to strike states in the region with nuclear weapons.

As William J. Perry, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, warned in his 2016 memoir, My Nuclear Journey; “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War.”

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump is poised to build up nuclear tensions even further.

His Dec 22 tweet that “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear arsenal,” reported comments the next day welcoming an “arms race,” and denunciation of the 2010 New START agreement with Russia, could signal a radical shift away from decades of bipartisan U.S. policy to seen an end to the nuclear arms race and reduce nuclear stockpiles.

These trends have driven the non-nuclear weapon state majority to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons and are putting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which will turn 50 years old in 2018—under tremendous strain.

In response, the leaders of all of the world’s states must redouble efforts to head-off renewed nuclear competition, reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use, and support a more energetic drive to verifiably reduce the number of nuclear weapons and their role in military and security affairs.

What Can Be Expected from the United States Under A Trump Administration?

The new administration’s approach is not yet clear but Trump’s early statements on nuclear weapons and nuclear arms control are deeply troubling.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who came into the White House with a detailed nuclear threat reduction game plan, Trump has no discernable strategy for managing today’s most daunting nuclear dangers.

And Trump has contradicted himself and his cabinet officials on whether he wants to increase or reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

In a pre-inauguration interview in January 2017 with the Times of London Trump said "nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially,” and he suggested that such a deal might be linked to the easing of sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Ukrainian territory.

But in response to President Putin’s suggestion that New START should be extended for another five years, Trump reportedly denounced the treaty as “one-sided.”

Sorting out what the actual Trump administration policies on nuclear weapons actually are will take some time. In January, Trump ordered his Defense Secretary James Mattis to lead a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the fourth since the end of the Cold War.

The review will be completed just as the Trump administration is making decisions on key nuclear policy matters with long-term implications.

Before the end his term Trump, along with Russian president Vladimir Putin will need to decide whether to:

  • extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and is monitoring regime past its February 2021 expiration date for another five years;
  • negotiate a follow-on agreement;
  •  or go forward without legally-binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Trump’s suggestion that the United States must increase the “capacity” of its nuclear stockpile could encourage some hawkish members of Congress to seek to overturn the Obama-era policy of “no new nuclear warhead designs” and approve funding for the development of new types of “more usable” nuclear warheads.

A December 2016 Defense Science Board report prepared for the new administration recommends "a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear option for limited use," ostensibly for a conflict in Europe with Russia.

Other members of the House and Senate, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have introduced legislation to restrict funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which is responsible for monitoring global compliance with the CTBT.

The bill also calls on Congress to declare that a Sept. 23, 2016 UN Security Council resolution does not “impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT, which bans nuclear test explosions.

The bottom line is that the pillars of the global nuclear order cannot be taken for granted.

What Can Be Done?

Doing nothing is not an option. More energetic and creative approaches are necessary to overcome old and new obstacles.

Every responsible member of the international community—nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states, governmental and nongovernmental leaders—have an important role to play in encouraging the Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump to respect and uphold their past nuclear risk reduction commitments and to seek ways to further reduce the role, salience and number of nuclear weapons.

I would highlight two near term priorities—both of which deserve attention and support:

1. Reduce U.S.-Russian nuclear tensions. When Trump and Putin meet later this year, the two leaders could reduce worries about nuclear missteps by reaffirming the statement by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from 1985 that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” and that “given the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons, the fundamental purpose of nuclear weapons, so long as they exist, should be to deter the use of nuclear weapons.”

In addition, they should be encouraged to:

  • Reaffirm the Commitment to the CTBT: Building on UNSC Resolution 2310 that was approved in Sept. 2016, the two leaders should also be encouraged reaffirm their commitment to the quarter-century-long U.S. and Russian moratoria on nuclear weapons test explosions and the prompt entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which both have signed but only Russia has ratified.

Failure by either side to stand by their CTBT commitments risks further nuclear tensions.

  • Extend New START and Seek Deeper Cuts: As President Barack Obama noted in his final press conference, “[T]here remains a lot of room for both countries to reduce our nuclear stockpiles.” With up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons allowed under New START, Russia and the United States can safely cut their bloated nuclear stockpiles further without negotiating a new treaty.

By agreeing to extend New START and its verification provisions by five years, to 2026, Trump and Putin could confidently pursue further, significant parallel reductions of warhead and delivery system inventories by one-third or more and still meet their respective nuclear deterrence requirements.

This step would ease tensions and reduce fears of a new nuclear arms race, plus it would reduce the skyrocketing price of nuclear weapons.

  • Address the INF Treaty compliance dispute. Russia’s deployment of ground-based cruise missiles prohibited by the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a serious matter. Trump said on Feb. 23 he would take up the issue with Putin when they meet. New U.S. or NATO nuclear-capable missile deployments are in appropriate. Rather, the two sides should discuss the U.S. evidence at another meeting of the treaty’s Special Verification Commission and to work to resolve all outstanding compliance issues. 

If Moscow continues to deploy the banned ground-launched cruise missiles, U.S. and NATO leaders should insist that the weapons would need to be counted under the limits set in the next round of nuclear arms reductions.

2. Further Reducing the Salience of Nuclear Weapons Through the Ban Treaty: Of course another important new step that can further reduce the salience of nuclear weapons is the forthcoming negotiation of a new instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Fundamentally, the initiative aims to spur action on nuclear disarmament and risk reduction and to further delegitimize their possession.

Although most of the world’s nuclear-armed states will likely boycott the negotiations, the process and the final product could help strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal, especially in light of the uncertainty surrounding U.S. nuclear policy under Trump’s leadership.

Contrary to some skeptics, this process is not a “distraction,” nor will it undermine the NPT, as some fear – so long as ban treaty advocates recognize its value and its limitations and so long as the nuclear weapon states do not continue to suggest that the ban treaty is the source of the nuclear nonproliferation regime’s problems.

Let’s be clear: the stresses and strains on the NPT are due to the actions of North Korea, the inability of the major nuclear armed states to make progress on disarmament commitments, the technological arms race by the nuclear weapon states, and the failure of key states in the Middle East to agree on the agenda for a conference on a WMD-free zone in their region – not the ban treaty negotiations.

In order to attain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally-binding norm to prohibit such weapons. As such, the pursuit of a treaty banning the development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is a key step along the way.

Yes, this is a challenge to the unsustainable and dangerous concept of security based upon the threat of nuclear weapons use, which can produce catastrophic destruction far beyond the borders of the warring parties.

To achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and to avoid the use of nuclear weapons, states that possess nuclear weapons and those in alliance with nuclear-armed states can and must shift away from nuclear deterrence to conventional military deterrence. This process is already underway. United States strategy of “extended deterrence” to allies in Europe against potential Russian aggression, and to U.S. allies in Asia has increasingly relied on non-nuclear elements, including forward U.S. conventional presence and effective theater missile defenses.

The participation of key middle powers, such as Japan and the Netherlands and Sweden, would help improve the quality of the outcome.

This new process has the potential to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal.

Those states and NGOs involved in the negotiation – and we plan to be among them – have some difficult work ahead. To be effective, the instrument will need to:

  • Specify which activities related to nuclear weapons possession, nuclear sharing planning, development, production, and testing are prohibited. If not already set out in an existing treaty (such as the CTBT), each of these prohibitions must be effectively verifiable, even if this negotiation does not elaborate and set out the monitoring and verification regime to verify compliance, which could be a task for a future comprehensive nuclear weapons elimination convention.
  • Be consistent with existing treaties that prohibit or limit certain nuclear weapons-related activities, including the CTBT, the current nuclear weapons free zone treaties, and the NPT. In order to compliment, rather than undermine these other pillars of nonproliferation and disarmament, the new treaty should require that states parties also adhere to the disarmament and nonproliferation-related obligations of these agreements.
  • Provide for pathways by which states that now possess nuclear weapons, or are part of alliances with nuclear-armed states, can support the new nuclear weapons prohibition treaty before they become a full-fledged member of new instrument. For example, negotiators should also consider protocols to the main treaty that nuclear-weapons possessor states could adopt that prohibits states armed with nuclear weapons, or in a military alliance with a nuclear-armed state, from threatening or using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state in good standing with its nuclear weapons ban treaty, NPT, and CTBT obligations.

The negotiators should seek a formula that is meaningful but also draws the widest possible support from states participating in the negotiation. Consensus should be the goal but not a requirement for agreement on the final outcome.

At the same time, advocates of coming nuclear weapons ban treaty must recognize it is not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament.

The new prohibition treaty can help delegitimize nuclear weapons as instruments of national power and further clarify that their possession and use is inconsistent with international law.

But without follow-through pressure for concrete nuclear restraint and disarmament measures, the process will necessarily lead the nuclear-armed states to act with urgency to fulfill their nuclear disarmament obligations.

As the 2016 UNGA resolution on launching the talks noted:

“…that additional measures, both practical and legally binding, for the irreversible, verifiable and transparent destruction of nuclear weapons would be needed in order to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

Thank you for your attention.

Posted: March 16, 2017

New nukes? No thanks.

News Source: 
The Hill
News Date: 
March 13, 2017 -04:00

Posted: March 15, 2017

Hill Wants Answers on Russia’s Fielding of New Missiles

News Source: 
Roll Call
News Date: 
March 8, 2017 -05:00

Posted: March 9, 2017

Trump Questions U.S. Nuclear Policies

The president declares the United States must be “top of the pack” in nuclear weapons. 

March 2017

By Daryl G. Kimball and Kingston Reif

The Trump administration is preparing to undertake the fourth Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) since the end of the Cold War. The study could set in motion significant changes in the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy, the plans for maintaining and upgrading nuclear forces, the nuclear force structure requirements and costs, and the overall U.S. approach to nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order on “rebuilding” the armed forces, as Vice President Mike Pence (left) and Defense Secretary James Mattis watch on January 27, at the Pentagon. (Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)This comes as President Donald Trump has declared his ambition to “greatly strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities, which are already substantial, and has criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, suggesting he may be looking to change nuclear policy in significant ways.

Since the end of the Cold War, each administration has conducted such a comprehensive review. The most recent one, completed in April 2010, said that the top priority of the U.S. nuclear agenda should be the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons through U.S. leadership to bolster the nonproliferation regime and achieve further reductions in nuclear arsenals.

In his Jan. 27 executive order titled “Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces,” Trump directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to produce a national defense strategy, an NPR, and a ballistic missile defense review. The directive language on the NPR, just one sentence long, states that the review should “ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.” 

Impact on Arms Control, Budgets

The new NPR will be completed as the Trump administration is making decisions with long-term security and budgetary implications. Trump will need to decide, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whether to extend New START and its monitoring regime for five years beyond its February 2021 expiration date, negotiate a follow-on agreement, or go forward without legally binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. This decision, among other factors, will determine whether the United States is seen to be meeting its nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which obligates nuclear-weapon states to pursue nuclear disarmament. 

The NPR may also affect the current plans to sustain and upgrade each element of the U.S. strategic arsenal, including new long-range, stealthy strategic bombers; a fleet of 1,000 new nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles; a new fleet of 14 strategic submarines; 400 new ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles; and upgraded nuclear command-and-control systems. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the cost at more than $400 billion in fiscal years 2017-2026 and perhaps more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years—a price tag that could squeeze out other high-priority national security programs.

Changes Ahead?

Unlike then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who campaigned for the presidency in 2008 with a detailed nuclear-risk reduction strategy, Trump has not presented his thinking in a formal way. Rather, he has made a series of controversial, seemingly impulsive, and sometimes contradictory comments on nuclear weapons. If translated into policy, some of Trump’s pronouncements would represent a radical break from long-standing U.S. policies to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons. In some cases, Trump’s own Cabinet members have disagreed with his statements, raising further questions about the direction of the administration’s policies.

Early in the campaign, Trump was asked on Jan. 3, 2016, if he would rule out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorist groups. He said, “I’m never going to rule anything out…because, at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it, OK?” 

That’s at odds with the Obama administration’s viewpoint as stated in a Jan. 15 speech by Vice President Joe Biden: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary, or make sense. President Obama and I are confident we can deter and defend ourselves and our allies against non-nuclear threats through other means.”

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson testifies January 11 at his Senate confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, where he said he supports engaging with Russia to verifiably reduce nuclear-weapon stockpiles. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)In a March 26, 2016, New York Times interview, Trump suggested, “I’m not sure it would be a bad thing for us” if Japan acquired nuclear weapons to defend against North Korea. When asked about that at his confirmation hearing Jan. 11, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not agree. “I don’t think anyone advocates for more nuclear weapons on the planet,” he said, while also asserting that “one of the vital roles of the State Department…has to be the pursuit of nuclear nonproliferation.” 

On Dec. 22, President-elect Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” and later was reported to have told a television host that he would “outmatch” and “outlast” any potential competitors in a nuclear arms race. In a Feb. 23 interview with Reuters, Trump vowed that “if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

The 2010 NPR determined that “Russia remains America’s only peer in the area of nuclear weapons capabilities.” The United States and Russia are estimated to have 4,018 and 4,500 warheads, respectively, stockpiled and assigned for military use. Under New START, each will be limited to 1,550 strategic deployed warheads on no more than 700 nuclear delivery vehicles until 2021. The next largest nuclear arsenals are those of France, with 300, and China, with 280 warheads of all types.

In a pre-inauguration interview with the The Times of London, Trump said that “nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.” Yet, in his first telephone call with Putin after taking office, Trump seemed to put U.S. support for New START in doubt. According to a Feb. 9 Reuters account, Trump denounced the agreement when Putin suggested the two countries might agree to extend the treaty for five years, an option provided in the treaty’s terms. In a Feb. 23 Reuters interview, Trump called New START a “one-sided” agreement. 

In response, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s defense committee, Viktor Ozerov, told the RIA Novosti news agency on Feb. 24 that Russia is “categorically opposed” to the termination of New START and will push for an extension because it is “fundamental to global security.” 

Some of Trump’s comments conflict with the findings of 2013 Pentagon nuclear strategy report that said the United States could meet its security obligations and “maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent” with “up to a one-third” reduction in deployed strategic warheads from the level established by New START. 

Trump’s suggestion that the United States must increase its nuclear “capacity” may encourage those who would like to overturn existing policy and allow for the pursuit of new types of nuclear warheads. The Defense Science Board, an advisory panel, urged the new administration in a December 2016 report to consider producing lower-yield weapons to provide a “tailored nuclear option for limited use.” It also questions the ability to maintain warheads in the absence of explosive testing, which is prohibited by the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States has signed but not ratified. Some Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have already signaled their opposition.

With the majority of subcabinet positions at the Defense, State, and Energy departments unfilled, the shape, direction, and pace of the new review is uncertain. But there is little doubt it will have far-reaching implications.

Posted: March 1, 2017

The Point with Liu Xin

News Source: 
CCTV America
News Date: 
February 28, 2017 -05:00

Posted: March 1, 2017


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