The US Senate Committee on Armed Services has approved an amendment that would provide at least $10 million to "carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary", The Hill reported on Monday, citing a copy of the amendment.
Introduced by Senator Tom Cotton, the amendment was approved last week in a 14-13 vote during a closed-door markup of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), according to the outlet, citing a congressional aide.
On Thursday, the Armed Services Committee announced approval of the 2020 NDAA and released a summary. The committee, however, has not yet released the full text of the amendments adopted in the NDAA.
A spokesperson for the committee reportedly said that the text of Cotton's amendment "should be" available "soon".
"A US nuclear test blast would certainly not advance efforts to rein in Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals or create a better environment for negotiations", said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, in response to Cotton's bill, as quoted by The Hill. "Instead, it would break the de facto global nuclear test moratorium, likely trigger nuclear testing by other states, and set off a new nuclear arms race in which everyone would come out a loser".
Kimball referred to a United Nations agreement banning the testing of nuclear weapons, known as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, to which Washington had adhered without ratifying. Although, the treaty has not entered into force because of not being ratified by a sufficient number of countries, major world powers have complied with it main principles.
The nuclear arms control expert also called on the US Congress to "step in to prevent the United States from becoming a nonproliferation rogue state by enacting a prohibition on the use of taxpayers’ funds to resume nuclear weapons testing in their upcoming votes on the defence authorisation and the energy appropriations bills".
On 25 May, in a letter to Defence Secretary Mark Esper senior Democrats in the US House of Representatives demanded that the Trump administration explain a reported plan to resume testing nuclear weapons.
The lawmakers demanded an explanation of the legal authority to resume nuclear testing, halted since 1992, as well as a detailed description of how the test would be funded. They have also offered bills to block the resumption of testing.
In May, Trump administration officials discussed the idea of resuming nuclear testing in a bid to support Washington's negotiating stance in conversations with Moscow and Beijing to get them to sign a trilateral nuclear arms control agreement, according to The Washington Post.