US security officials ‘considered return to nuclear testing’ after 28-year hiatus

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(The Guardian) – US officials have debated whether to carry out the first US nuclear tests in 28 years as a way to pressure Russia and China into make a trilateral arms control deal, according congressional aides and former officials.

They said the discussion took place at a “deputies meeting” of senior national security officials at the White House on 15 May, but that the proposal was shelved for the time being.

The discussion was first reported on Friday night by the Washington Post, which cited a senior administration official as saying that a demonstration to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could carry out a “rapid test” could be a useful bargaining counter in the achieving the administration’s priority on arms control – a trilateral deal with Russia and China.

The deputies committee discussion has come at a time when arms control is in danger of dying out altogether. The Trump administration has pulled out of three arms control agreements, the latest this week with an announcement that the US will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which allows the Russia and western nations to conduct observation overflights of each other’s territories.

The last major arms control treaty left standing is the 2010 New Start agreement, limiting US and Russian deployed strategic warheads. It is due to expire in February next year but the Trump administration has said it does not want to extend it without bringing China into arms control negotiations. Beijing has refused, on the grounds that its stockpile is tiny compared with the US and Russian arsenals (estimated at just over a twentieth of the size).

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