IN the wake of North Korea’s repeated threats of a nuclear attack on the United States, US President Donald Trump last month called for a review of the state of America’s nuclear forces. The initial report said $1.2 trillion would be needed to upgrade and modernize America’s nuclear arsenal.
Among the fiscal needs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would be: (1) $313 billion for a new ballistic missile submarine capable of firing nuclear missiles from beneath the ocean surface; (2) $149 billion for a new silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile; and (3) $266 billion for a new B-21 Stealth bomber. These are the three means of delivering nuclear warheads – by sea, land, and air – in case of all-out conflict.
It is truly unfortunate that the US is renewing its attention to its nuclear arsenal, after eight years. The last time there was such a review was in 2010 under President Barack Obama, when traditional nuclear rivals US and Russia agreed to steadily reduce their nuclear stockpiles and the Cold War came to an end. Their warheads are now down to 7,000 each, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Under a new START treaty, they are to further reduce the number of their nuclear warheads to 1,550 and launchers to 700 each.
But because of North Korea’s boasting that its nuclear warheads can now reach any city on the US mainland, President Trump has ordered a second look at the US nuclear program. In a report issued last Friday, the US made the rather unexpected observation that China should not mistakenly conclude that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is acceptable.
China responded to this with a pledge that it will never be first to use nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.”
It called on the US to “abandon a Cold War mentality” and attend to its own nuclear disarmament program. China has 300 warheads, making it the world’s fifth nuclear power, after the US, Russia, United Kingdom, and France.
We most certainly welcome China’s assurance. What we in this part of the world are now concerned with is North Korea, which seems to be openly challenging the US. It has toned down its threats lately, with its preparations for its participation in the Winter Olympics this month in South Korea.
We hope that this trend continues and that the US will no longer see the need to further boost its already top nuclear capability, lest this spur traditional Cold War rival Russia to respond and trigger a new international arms race.