Trump administration discussed conducting first U.S. nuclear test in decades
John Hudson and
May 23, 2020 at 3:32 a.m. GMT+2
The Trump administration has discussed whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992 in a move that would have far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers and reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions, said a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations.
The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.
A senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive nuclear discussions, said that demonstrating to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could “rapid test” could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers.
The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.” Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing.
The National Security Council declined to comment.
During the meeting, serious disagreements emerged over the idea, in particular from the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The NNSA, an agency that ensures the safety of the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since September 1992, and nuclear nonproliferation advocates warned that doing so now could have destabilizing consequences.
“It would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”
President Barack Obama supported the ratification of the CTBT in 2009 but never realized his goal. The Trump administration said it would not seek ratification in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.
Still, the major nuclear powers abide by its core prohibition on testing. But the United States in recent months has alleged that Russia and China have violated the “zero yield” standard with extremely low-yield or underground tests, not the type of many-kiloton yield tests with mushroom clouds associated with the Cold War. Russia and China deny the allegation.
Every year, top U.S. officials, including the heads of the national nuclear labs and the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, must certify the safety and reliability of the stockpile without testing. The Trump administration has said that, unlike Russia and China, it isn’t pursuing new nuclear weapons but reserves the right to do so if the two countries refuse to negotiate on their programs.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national ... story.html
20. Mai 2020
Text of a Letter to Certain Congressional Committees on the United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-st ... lic-china/
United States Strategic Approach to The People's Republic of China
The primary remaining pillar of the arms-control framework between the United States and Russia is the New START pact, which places limits on strategic nuclear platforms.
The Trump administration has been pushing to negotiate a follow-on agreement that includes China in addition to Russia, but China has rejected calls for talks so far.
Trump’s presidential envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, warned that China is the “midst” of a major buildup of its nuclear arsenal and “intent on building up its nuclear forces and using those forces to try to intimidate the United States and our friends and allies.”
One U.S. official said a nuclear test could help pressure the Chinese into joining a trilateral agreement with the United States and Russia, but some nonproliferation advocates say such a move is risky.
To respond to Beijing’s challenge, the Administration has adopted a competitive approach to the PRC, based on a clear-eyed assessment of the CCP’s intentions and actions, a reappraisal of the United States’ many strategic advantages and shortfalls, and a tolerance of greater bilateral friction. Our approach is not premised on determining a particular end state for China. Rather, our goal is to protect United States vital national interests, as articulated in the four pillars of the 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS). We aim to: (1) protect the American people, homeland, and way of life; (2) promote American prosperity; (3) preserve peace through strength; and (4) advance American influence.
https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releas ... -of-china/
3. Preserve Peace through Strength
The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) prioritizes long-term competition with China and emphasizes modernization and partnerships to counter the PLA’s technological advancements, force development, and growing international presence and assertiveness. As described in the Nuclear Posture Review, the Administration is prioritizing the modernization of the nuclear triad, including the development of supplementary capabilities designed to deter Beijing from using its weapons of mass destruction or conducting other strategic attacks. Meanwhile, the United States continues to urge China’s leaders to come to the table and begin arms control and strategic risk reduction discussions as a nuclear power with a modern and growing nuclear arsenal and the world’s largest collection of intermediate range delivery systems. The United States believes it is in the interest of all nations to improve Beijing’s transparency, prevent miscalculations, and avoid costly arms buildups.
The Department of Defense is moving quickly to deploy hypersonic platforms, increasing investments in cyber and space capabilities, and developing more lethal fires based on resilient, adaptive, and cost-effective platforms. Together, these capabilities are intended to deter and counter Beijing’s growing ambitions and the PLA’s drive toward technological parity and superiority.