Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Updating its Nuclear Weapons Use Policy amidst North Korea Tensions


(Photo : USAF) Fearsome Minuteman ICBM in its silo.

The U.S. Department of Defense is now in the midst of reviewing its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a process "to determine what the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy should be."

The timing of the review is ominous, coming as it does against a backdrop of North Korea's stubborn refusal to abandon its nuclear weapons development program, and Washington's declaration it will consider all means -- including a military option -- to derail this program.

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NPR will take anal encompassing look at all aspects of America's military nuclear capabilities. The previous NPR was conducted in 2010 by the administration of former president Barack Obama.  

NPR will also review the technologies involved since the Pentagon will revamp its entire nuclear arsenal by adding new nuclear missiles and retiring old ones. Over the next few decades, the DoD will build more nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs); strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons such as the proposed Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider and a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to replace the LGM-30 Minuteman III, America's only land based nuclear missile.

A key focus of NPR will be how the U.S. will respond to today's nuclear threats, especially those posed by North Korea, China, and Russia. Russia is especially worrisome and has undertaken an aggressive program to expand its tactical nuclear weapons to the point it now has more of these battlefield weapons than the U.S. and NATO combined.

NPR, which is being led by Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, will serve as a way for Washington to decide on its own path along the nuclear road distinct from that of the Obama administration.

The U.S.' nuclear arsenal will cost some $400 billion over the next decade.

The Pentagon plans to finish the NPR by the end of the year, but might end sooner. Gen. John Hyten, Commander of the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), said the NPR might take only six months to complete.

USSTRATCOM is charged with missile defense, space operations (such as military satellites), information operations (such as information warfare), global command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), global strike and strategic deterrence (the United States nuclear arsenal), and combating weapons of mass destruction.

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