U.S. Nuclear Policy Limits Use and Threat of Weapons

BY Larisa Epatko  April 6, 2010 at 1:58 PM EDT

The Obama administration released Tuesday a new set of guidelines for nuclear weapons, including not threatening their use against signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in an effort to encourage other countries’ adherence to the treaty.

The Pentagon issued the new “nuclear policy review” after consulting with allied governments for a year following President Barack Obama’s pledge to move toward a nuclear-free world.

In a statement posted on the White House’s Web site, the president said for the first time the U.S. is putting the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism at the top of its agenda.

And by declaring that the United States will not use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons against signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the president is seeking to encourage adherence to its principles.

“Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure,” he said.

In a shift away from past strategies, the nuclear policy review states that the United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons. It will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

On Thursday, President Obama plans to sign a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia in Prague. Under the deal, the two countries, which hold the bulk of the world’s nuclear weapons, would reduce their nuclear stockpiles by one-third. The U.S. Senate still must ratify the deal.

The report also mentions Iran and North Korea specifically for violating their “non-proliferation obligations” and defying the U.N. Security Council in their pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile systems to deliver nuclear payloads, in addition to citing concerns about China’s stance on nuclear weapons, according to Bloomberg News. “The lack of transparency surrounding its nuclear programs — their pace and scope, as well as the strategy and doctrine that guides them — raises questions about China’s future strategic intentions,” the review says.

Congress requires every new president to issue a nuclear policy review.