US to reduce nuclear weapons arsenal

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

According to senior officials in the Obama administration, the U.S. is to significantly and permanently reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons by thousands of weapons as part of a major rethinking of American nuclear policy.

The move is coming as part of a major policy review intended to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world. According to an unnamed official, the review "will point to dramatic reductions in the stockpile, while maintaining a strong and reliable deterrent."

As part of the new policy, conventional weapons will have a greater role in the future. According to officials, there are thousands of weapons that could be retired, largely by eliminating those currently stored. The move comes as a significant step towards Obama's stated goal of reducing and eventually ending the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.

The policy changes come as part of the Nuclear Posture Review, a document which is undertaken by all presidents. In addition to the reduction of nuclear weapons, Obama's review will also adjust the United States' defense towards non-nuclear options, including missile defense, largely within striking distance of the Persian Gulf to reduce the threat posed by countries such as Iran.

A centerpiece of the new policy is a new plan called the "Prompt Global Strike," which involves a new type of conventional weapon that could be fired from the U.S. and reach anywhere in the world within an hour, providing an effective option for attacks worldwide, such as against a missile launch from North Korea or a strike against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The new weapons would achieve the same effects as nuclear weapons, without the threat of conventional war escalating into nuclear war.

The changes reflect a new focus on nonproliferation and arms control by the Obama administration, policies that were largely dismissed by the Bush administration. In conjunction with new domestic policies, the Obama administration is trying to win passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would ban all nuclear explosions for any purposes.

The treaty was defeated in the 1990s, during the Clinton presidency, and still faces strong resistance in the U.S. Senate. The Obama administration is also trying to revise the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to close loopholes that have been exploited by North Korea and Iran.

The administration has also been pressured to redefine the role of America's nuclear arsenal. Democrats have been pressuring the administration to formally declare that the role of America's nuclear weapons is solely to deter nuclear attack on the United States.

American military officials, as well as some officials within the White House, however, have urged the administration to retain more ambiguous wording from the Bush era, which says that nuclear deterrence is only the primary role of American nuclear weapons, which would leave open the option of using nuclear weapons against enemies that threaten the US with chemical or biological weapons.


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