22:49 GMT +319 October 2019
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    US Inexplicably Halts Disclosure of Info on Size of Nuclear Arsenal

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    Washington began a $1.5 trillion 30-year modernisation of the US' nuclear arsenal in 2010, with President Trump's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calling for the creation of new tactical and sea-launched weapons, and lowering the threshold for their use including the possibility of a US nuclear response to "significant non-nuclear strategic attacks."

    The US Department of Energy has rejected a request by the Federation of American Scientists to disclose the size of the country's nuclear weapons stockpile, the organisation stated in a press release.

    "After careful consideration…it was determined that the requested information cannot be classified at this time," the DoE wrote in an April 5 letter, offering no further information, except to say the decision was made by Department of Defence and DoE officials from the Formerly Restricted Data Declassification Working Group.

    FAS Nuclear Information Project director Hans M. Kristensen blasted the decision, calling it "unnecessary and counterproductive" and saying it "walks back nearly a decade" of practice and places the US in "the same box as over-secretive nuclear-armed states, several of which are US adversaries."

    The analyst warned that Washington's decision will make it harder to secure new arms control agreements with Russia and China. The Trump administration began its withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Nuclear Forces Treaty earlier this year, with Moscow also expressing concerns that the fate of the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could be in question. 

    The Obama administration began the declassification of US nuclear stockpiles in 2010, with the Trump administration continuing the practice, releasing the 2017 figures last year. The figures showed the total stockpile to consist of 3,822 nuclear warheads of all classifications as of 30 September 2017.

    Kristensen said there was no clear indication about why Washington rejected the nuclear stockpile disclosures, noting that "the answer may be as simple as 'because it can' with no opposition from the White House," or an indication that the US has already begun to increase the size of its nuclear stockpile (although that option was less likely, in his view).

    According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute figures from January 2018, Russia and the US have the largest nuclear stockpiles, with 6,850 and 6,450 nuclear warheads, respectively, with France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea having access to 300, 280, 215, 140-150, 130-140, 80 and 10-20 nukes, respectively.

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    Tags:
    nuclear stockpile, nuclear arms, nuclear weapons, classified, United States
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