The Pentagon is quietly preparing for a potential war with North Korea, with The U.S. military is launching a series of war games and exercises across the US and a planned deployment of additional special operations troops to the Korean Peninsula during the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month. The ongoing tensions between the US and North Korea have spurred precautionary planning for a potential nuclear war.
News outlets have reported that there are also plans to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons. The new Defense Department nuclear strategy review says the proposed new nuclear weapons would be to counter Russia and China. Widening the permissible use of nuclear weapons to include responding to cyberattacks and other non-nuclear attacks to U.S. infrastructure has also been proposed.
The Pentagon has already outlined this expanded nuclear strategy in a draft document sent to the president for approval. Current US policy requires a lawful order by the President to use nuclear weapons. A lawful order is generally understood by the US military to mean any counterattack would have to be proportional to the threat in terms of damage and casualties of that attack against the US.
US Defense officials have said that the final draft is expected to be unveiled just after Trump’s State of the Union address on January 30. They said it will likely focus on deterrence and reflect the greater threat from North Korea, which has stepped up its testing of missiles and nuclear devices over the last year.
The review is looking at current needs and capabilities across the US nuclear enterprise, including nuclear laboratories, stockpiles and manufacturing facilities. It is also studying future needs for modernizing aging nuclear weapons, including missiles, submarines and bomber aircraft. The review will require increased spending or the government will be unable to produce and maintain a stockpile for land, sea, and air-launched nuclear weapons. Operations, interim upgrades and full modernization could cost $1.2 trillion, according the Congressional Budget Office report.
Defense officials have said the president is not expected to call for increases or modernization of the nuclear arsenal that would take the US beyond current arms control agreements. Many worry that if the review recommends deployment of small nuclear bombs abroad closer to anticipated conflict or the development of lower-yield nuclear weapons-that could lead to it being easier for the president to use nuclear weapons.