The Obama administration unveiled a new policy on Tuesday restricting US use of nuclear weapons but sent a stern message to nuclear-defiant Iran and North Korea that they remain potential targets.
The policy document,known as The Nuclear Posture Review,says the US would consider use of nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances. But it said that the US would strengthen its conventional arsenal.
Kicking off a hectic week for President Barack Obamas nuclear agenda,his aides rolled out a strategy review that renounced US development of new atomic weapons and could herald further cuts in Americas stockpile.
The announcement,calling for reduced US reliance on its nuclear deterrent,could build momentum before Obama signs a landmark arms control treaty with Russia in Prague on Thursday and hosts a nuclear security summit in Washington next week.
But Obamas strategy is likely to draw criticism from conservatives who say his approach could compromise US national security and disappoint liberals who wanted the President to go further on arms control.
The US for the first time is forswearing use of atomic weapons against non-nuclear countries,a break with a Bush-era threat of nuclear retaliation in the event of a biological or chemical attack.
But the new strategy comes with a major condition that the countries will be spared a US nuclear response only if they are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That loophole means Iran and North Korea would not be protected.
We agree that weve got a very hard problem in front of us the fact that states like North Korea and Iran … are interested in these capabilities and the means to deliver them, a senior US defence official said. And we have continuing evidence that al-Qaeda and others are interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
The document also raised concerns about a lack of transparency in Chinas nuclear programme.