Legislation Would Limit Trump’s Nuclear Option

 In Nuclear Weapons, Trump Administration

This article was originally published by the Baltimore Sun by Michael Keller, co-chair of the board of directors of Peace Action Education Fund. You can read the article in its entirety on the Baltimore Sun’s website.

Since President Trump took office, military posturing and bellicosity between the United States and North Korea has escalated. In recent weeks, it has grown to include reciprocal threats of the use of nuclear weapons.

North Korean officials warned in mid-April that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work described two U.S. ballistic missile tests as “a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.” The election of the liberal Moon Jae-in as president of South Korea may cool the rhetoric on both sides, but the recent missile tests of North Korea have complicated that possibility, and there is no certainty that Mr. Trump will seize the opportunity in any case.

Loose talk about the use of nuclear weapons is justification for alarm, especially in a time of heightened tensions. Reports have surfaced that the Trump administration is considering a pre-emptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities or a “decapitation” strategy aimed at the leadership of the regime, possibly using nuclear weapons. Such an attack would not likely succeed and could well prompt a response from North Korea, which is believed to have the capacity of striking South Korea, Japan and U.S. forces on the Korean demilitarized zone with 10-kiloton atomic weapons sufficient to destroy a city. A miscalculation or accident could result in a catastrophe, as well. In 1995, the United States and Norway launched a research rocket off the latter country’s northwest coast. Russia’s early warning system read it initially as a nuclear attack. Russia’s emergency nuclear decision process was aborted only after radar indicated that the rocket was headed out to sea. Could we expect North Korea’s mercurial leaders to behave in a calm fashion in similar circumstances?

You can read the article in its entirety on the Baltimore Sun’s website.

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