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DOD Committed to Reducing Risk of Nuclear War, Says Official

The Defense Department would like nothing better than the total elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide, the undersecretary of defense for policy said.

Colin H. Kahl spoke virtually today at the United Nations' Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York City.

However, today's security environment is more challenging than at any time since the end of the Cold War and arguably a more complex one, as there are many challenges that impact progress toward the achievement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty aspirations, he said.

An aircraft soars in the sky.
B-1B Lance
An Air Force B-1B Lancer flies in the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Oct. 25, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts
VIRIN: 191025-F-FH950-0846C
Lights and a plume of smoke can be seen against a dark sky.
Test Launch
An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 4, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Aubree Owens
VIRIN: 200804-F-VU029-1002C

The NPT is an international treaty, the aim of which is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.

Kahl mentioned some of the impediments to eliminating all nuclear weapons.

Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and reckless nuclear rhetoric.
China's rapid expansion, modernization and diversification of its nuclear weapons capabilities as well as its saber-rattling this week in the Taiwan Straits.
Iran's refusal to resolve International Atomic Energy Agency concerns and return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
North Korea's possible preparations to conduct another nuclear test and its steady stream of missile tests.

Nuclear deterrence and the transparency, communication and dialogue are recognized to be equally important factors in reducing the risks of nuclear war, he said.

"This balanced approach recognizes that nuclear deterrence is not mutually exclusive to bolstering arms control, promoting strategic stability and working toward a world without nuclear weapons," he added.

"Even as we continue the important work of ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, the United States remains committed to the goals of the NPT," he said.

An aircraft takes off; skyscrapers can be seen in the background.
B-52H Stratofortress
A B-52H Stratofortress bomber assigned to the 340th Weapons Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., takes off for Weapons School Integration from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 21, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie
VIRIN: 191121-F-DN281-0953C
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USS Florida
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida sails in the Mediterranean Sea near Greece, Oct. 15, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis
VIRIN: 191015-N-AS200-0601C

In March of this year, DOD released its National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review in classified form to Congress.

Kahl said that the unclassified versions of the NDS and NPR should be made publicly available in the near future.

Some highlights of the soon-to-be released NPR, he said, are:

A commitment to nuclear modernization with the goals of a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent to protect the homeland, allies and partners.
Taking steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons globally with a commitment to arms control, risk reduction and strategic stability.
Seeking a new, integrated approach to deterrence that works seamlessly across warfighting domains and theaters and bolsters security with non-nuclear capabilities.
A commitment to reducing risk through mutually verifiable arms control agreements, including compliance with all obligations.
Recognizing a continued commitment to discussions among the major nuclear powers on ways to sustain and enhance strategic stability and reduce the risks of nuclear war.

"Despite the challenges in the current security environment, the United States will continue to pursue engagement with other nuclear armed states where possible to reduce nuclear risks, and we will do so with realistic expectations," he said.

"The United States wholeheartedly recognizes and reaffirms that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," he said. "We encourage nuclear weapons states to engage with the United States on risk reduction measures and provide transparency about nuclear posture and doctrine."

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