Talk Of Possible Shift In U.S. Nuke Policy Rekindles Questions Over America's Security Assurances For Allies

Talk Of Possible Shift In U.S. Nuke Policy Rekindles Questions Over America's Security Assurances For Allies

Andrew H. Sweet

With its nuclear posture review underway, the Biden team has reportedly been considering a "no-first-use" declaration, which would rule out the possibility of the U.S. launching a preemptive nuclear strike seen as a formidable deterrent against potential adversaries.

Even if Washington does not go as far as to embrace the no-first-use approach, it could opt for a "sole purpose" policy. The new policy would define a strictly limited set of extreme circumstances for the use of nuclear arms, such as retaliation after a nuclear attack.

The possibility of a U.S. policy shift has unnerved conservatives in South Korea, as North Korea has steadily focused on developing operational nuclear and missile forces, as evidenced by the test-firing last month of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Opponents of the policy change argue that the U.S. should keep its stance of strategic ambiguity over its first-use option to ensure that potential enemies dare not think about initiating a war that would cause unacceptable costs on their part.

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