Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Donald Trump Administration Plans to Develop More Usable Nuclear Weapons, Loosen Restrictions

Donald Trump Administration Plans to Develop More Usable Nuclear Weapons, Loosen Restrictions

Worldwide relations think tank Chatham House said the growing vulnerability of the nuclear arsenal was not being taken seriously enough by military planners or weapons procurement chiefs.

"'In times of crisis, loss of confidence in nuclear weapons capabilities would factor into decision-making and could undermine beliefs in nuclear deterrence - particularly in extending nuclear deterrence to allied countries".

The administration is being accused of making nuclear war more likely with plans to introduce lower-yield nuclear weapons with reduced destructive capability that would diminish the psychological bar for using them. "And there is pretty good, moderate but strong language that makes clear that any attempt by Russian Federation or North Korea to use nuclear weapons would result in a massive outcome for them and I think that is actually moderate, centrist and probably very much needed".

"At times of heightened tension, cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use".

The report suggests the likelihood of attempted cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems is "relatively high", and cites information that the USA may have infiltrated parts of North Korea's missile systems past year and caused test failures.

The authors added: "Cyber vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks".

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Donald Trump Administration Plans to Develop More Usable Nuclear Weapons, Loosen Restrictions

Last week, Trump fired off a warning tweet to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, taunting leader who said in his New Year speech that Americans should be aware he has a "button" for nuclear weapons.

"Cyber risks in nuclear weapons systems have thus far received scant attention from the nuclear weapons policy community", it added.

Researchers Dr Beyza Unal and Dr Patricia Lewis, the report's authors, warned that the key targets for cyberattacks could be communications as well as the transfer and storage of data.

This could "infect digital components of a system at any time", which the think-tank said could lead to countries launching nuclear weapons by accident. "Solutions to these risks, therefore, should go beyond applying cyber security policies because, in this context, cyber risk reduction is actually about nuclear risk reduction". "These should incorporate an analysis of a combination of threats, vulnerabilities and consequences", they said.

Trump reportedly responded to a chart about the reduction in US nuclear weapons since the Cold War by hoping for a ten-fold increase in the stockpile, though he called the reporting from NBC "pure fiction". Said circumstances now include "a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties" or in response to an attack aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear control sites.

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