The United States is not pursuing a “no-first-use” policy with regard to its nuclear weapons, says US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Under the the no-first-use doctrine, a nuclear power undertakes not to be the first one to use nuclear arms during a possible war.
“It has been the policy of the United States for a long time to extend its nuclear umbrella to friends and allies, and thereby to contribute to the deterrence of conflict and the deterrence of war,” Carter said at a nuclear research facility in New Mexico on Tuesday.
The comments were made after US President Barack Obama was considering an overhaul of the country’s nuclear policy, including the implementation of a no-first-use one.
America and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members do not currently stick to such a policy, while China, considered an adversary nuclear power by Washington, maintains that.
According to Carter, opting for the first nuclear strike at a possible future war “has been our policy for a long time, and is part of our plans going forward.”
The issue came into spotlight by GOP nominee Donald Trump, saying he was ready to resort to nuclear strikes.
During a debate with his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, when the subject was brought up again, Trump said that he “would certainly not do first strike.”
“We have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table,” he, however, added.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers at US Congress are making efforts to bar the president from launching a nuclear strike without a Congressional declaration of war.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, US policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation,” said Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, who co-sponsored the bill with House Representative Ted Lieu from California. “The president should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.”