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U.S. security officials have said that the development of sea-launched nuclear missiles is necessary to combat Russia, which has been developing their tactical nuclear weapons.
According to a July report by the State Department, Russia has continued to expand it’s “low-yield theater and tactical nuclear weapons,” while the U.S. retired it’s last sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N) in 2010, when the U.S. entered in the New START treaty with Russia that aimed to reduce nuclear arsneals.
The report notes that Russia is potentially relying on the U.S.’s lack of nuclear “first-use weapons” as a strategic "coercive advantage" – meaning the U.S. would not be able to respond to the use of low-yield theatre warfare without drastically escalating the conflict.
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The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review has called for the U.S. to increase their nuclear ballistic arsenals in order to rise to Russia’s level of nuclear deterrence, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
China is also reportedly beefing up their tactical nuclear capabilities, which would allow them to more easily invade another country, as Russia did in 2008 in Georgia and 2014 in Crimea.
“Developing and fielding SLCM-N signal the leaders of nuclear competitors in a concrete way that the United States has the capability and will to maintain operationally effective nuclear options to deter regional aggression,” the report said.
Pentagon officials announced earlier this year a contract with the United Kingdom to add a controversial W93 nuclear warhead to each country’s nuclear arsenals.
Security officials have said the warhead would be the next-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a program that is expected to cost $14 billion.
"There is no time to waste when updating the nuclear triad," Ranking member of House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Rep. Mike Turner, R-OH told Fox News. "The United Kingdom in particular is reliant on the success of the W93 modernization program."
"Furthermore, our allies are counting on us to follow through on our commitments and to keep our nuclear deterrent up to date," he added.
In press conference Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticized the U.S. push to develop nuclear arms.
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“Since its pullout of the INF Treaty one year ago, the U.S. has kept quitting more international treaties and organizations,” Wenbin told reporters Tuesday.
“It has announced decisions to unsign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, unilaterally loosen its standards on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) export control as a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) member state, and has not agreed to extend the New START Treaty yet,” he outlined.
The U.S. is attempting to pressure Russia into getting China to sign a nuclear arms agreement between the U.S., Russia and China. Russia has said they will sign to extend the START treaty without conditions, but that they will not pressure another country.
If the U.S. does not agree to extend the original contract with Russia, it will be the first time that the two Cold War era countries were not in a nuclear arms agreement since 1987.
Disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation officials are worried that the repercussions of a treaty fallout could cause another nuclear arms race. The treaty expires Feb. 2021.
“The above-mentioned negative measures of the US have seriously undermined regional and global peace and security, impacted the international arms control and disarmament process, weakened mutual trust between major countries, damaged global strategic stability,” Wenbin told to reporters Tuesday.
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Wenbin said the U.S. has “exposed its true intention of pursuing unilateralism and seeking military hegemony."
But U.S. security officials have argued that by re-developing smaller tactical warfare missiles, it “will lower the risks of nuclear conflict, bolster the confidence of allies and restore a degree of balance in non-strategic nuclear weapons that could create conditions more conducive to addressing this category of forces through arms control.”
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