US review of ‘ban on preemptive use of nuclear weapons’… “Allies all oppose”

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The U.S. Navy’s Seawolf-class nuclear attack submarine Connecticut departs from Kitsap Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington, on May 27. Bremerton = AFP Yonhap News

While the Joe Biden administration is reviewing a “No First Use” policy, allies are lobbying against the U.S. government one after another. This is because, if the policy of ‘prohibiting the preemptive use of nuclear weapons’ that the US will not use nuclear weapons first is specified unless the US is subjected to a nuclear attack, the security of allies that have been under the ‘nuclear umbrella’ of the US may be at risk.

The British daily Financial Times (FT) reported on the 30th (local time) that “the US government is preparing a ‘Nuclear Posture Review Report (NPR)’ to be released in January next year. ‘ We are concerned that the principle will be adopted.” The United States is currently not adopting the principle of prohibiting the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, the US government sent a questionnaire to its European and Pacific allies, including Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Australia, regarding changes in nuclear weapons policy. Allies overwhelmingly opposed the change in the US nuclear weapons policy, saying it would have a huge negative impact.

The US has maintained the ‘strategic ambiguity’ of its nuclear weapons policy since the Cold War. In some cases, this is to have the effect of deterring provocations from North Korea, Russia, and China by leaving room for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. Allies have relied on the US ‘nuclear umbrella’. For this reason, experts are warning that if the US introduces the principle of ‘preemptive use of nuclear weapons’, these countries could increase the level of nuclear threat to the US and its allies in the region. The FT stated that South Korea and Japan could “promote nuclear armament of allies (exposed to North Korea’s nuclear threat), which may in turn trigger an arms race in the region.”

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In particular, these countries said, “Isn’t the US going to change its nuclear policy (without prior discussion) again this time, citing the fact that the Biden administration has not sufficiently consulted with its allies in advance, such as the recent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and support for the development of nuclear submarines with Australia? ,” said the FT. They strongly conveyed concerns about a shift in the US nuclear weapons policy to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who visited NATO headquarters earlier this month.

Despite repeated opposition from allies, it remains possible that President Biden will incorporate the principle of “sole purpose” into his nuclear policy. The ‘single purpose’ is the principle that nuclear weapons are used solely for the purpose of countering nuclear attacks, excluding conventional or chemical and biological weapons. In the last presidential election, President Biden insisted that preemptive use of nuclear weapons should be made possible only for a ‘single purpose’ of deterrence and counterattack. Previously, the Barack Obama administration had promoted the principle of prohibiting the first use of nuclear weapons, but abandoned it due to opposition from allies. “The use of ‘single-purpose’ is just another name for a ban on the preemptive use of nuclear weapons,'” said James Rishi, Republican secretary of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. .

Jiwon Kang reporter

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