World Moves Closer to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe

It is now two and half minutes to midnight - “The Chicago-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the ‘Doomsday Clock,’ a symbolic countdown to the end of the world, to two and a half minutes to midnight. It marks the first time since 1953 -- after hydrogen bomb tests in the US and then Soviet Union -- that humanity has been this close to global disaster,” writes Sarah Karacs for CNN.

--“The group cited US President Donald Trump's ‘disturbing comments’ about the use of nuclear weapons and views on climate change among other factors, including cyberthreats and the rise in nationalism, that have contributed to the darkened forecast. ‘The board's decision to move the clock less than a full minute reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the US president only a matter of days,’ the organization said in a statement.” Full story here.

Trump and nuclear challenges - “Nuclear weapons remain the most powerful weapons on the planet and how President Donald Trump’s team manages nuclear issues is critical to our security,” writes Jon Wolfsthal for Foreign Policy. “These are hard challenges; none were perfectly addressed under President Obama’s leadership. But we made them a priority from day one. Whether or not the new team puts them at the top of the to-do list.”

--Here are some nuclear challenges that the Trump administration will have to face. Addressing the issue of nuclear North Korea “through deterrence, containment, enhanced pressure, or even military prevention — while reassuring our critical allies, South Korea and Japan, will be a key challenge… Softer words between Presidents Trump and Putin are nice but won’t ease Moscow’s fear that Washington seeks an ability to conduct a ‘splendid first-strike’ that could eliminate most Russian nuclear missiles using advanced conventional weapons.” In addition, the Iran deal, nuclear terrorism, and international push for global disarmament are some key issues that President Trump will have to deal with sooner than later. Full story here.

Tweet - @nukstrat: UKs “independent" deterrent: Video allegedly shows HMS Vengeance serviced in Florida after failed 2016 Trident test

Heather Wilson’s conflicts of interest - “Heather Wilson, who Trump recently nominated for U.S. Air Force Secretary, represented New Mexico in Congress from 1998 to 2009. After leaving that post, she spent two years doing contract work for four nuclear facilities, including two New Mexico-based labs, without recording a single deliverable,” writes Lydia Dennett for War is Boring. “She was also allegedly involved in an illegal lobbying effort by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.”

--“Over the next 30 years, it will be directly involved in a $1 trillion nuclear modernization plan — a plan that will also significantly affect the work and funding for the labs Wilson previously worked for… Wilson’s past involvement with the nuclear labs is not necessarily disqualifying for the position of Air Force Secretary, but the Office of Government Ethics and the Senate should ensure that her ties to the nuclear labs will not improperly influence her decision-making.” Full story here.

Fighting Trump's nuclear authority - “Rep. Ted W. Lieu and Sen. Edward J. Markey, both Democrats, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would forbid the president from launching a nuclear strike without first having Congress declare war,” writes Alex Lockie for Business Insider. “The bill expresses clear doubts in President Donald Trump's judgment, with the lawmakers saying in a joint release ‘the crucial issue of nuclear 'first use' is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.’”

--According to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association,“the bill highlights is the undemocratic nature of the process by which the commander-in-chief can launch a devastating strike involving nuclear weapons and all but invite a devastating response against US forces.” Full story here.

See Also - “Sen. Ed Markey Talks Nuclear Weapons, Voter Fraud,” by Caitlin O’Keefe and Meghna Chakrabarti for WBUR.

Tweet - @Livableworld: Citing #nuclear war as greatest threat, @RepTedLieu, @SenMarkey call for democracy in nuke policy.

China’s new long range nuclear missile - “China has publicly announced the deployment of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)... [that] can carry up to a dozen nuclear warheads and China claims it has the longest range of any nuclear missile in the world,” writes Kyle Mizokami for Popular Mechanics. “The announcement of the missiles is likely a warning to U.S. President Donald Trump, who is known for sharply worded anti-Chinese rhetoric and has announced plans for a new ballistic missile system.”

--“America's ballistic missile shield is provided by the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense(GBMD) system… The weakness in the U.S. system is that it strikes warheads only after they have separated from missiles... In the first five minutes, you have a one missile problem. After that, you have a twelve warhead problem. So for one missile, you suddenly need sixty GBI [Ground-Based] interceptors to shoot down all the warheads with total certainty. Fifty four Chinese missiles with 12 warheads each presents the United States with a problem that only 3,240 Ground-Based Interceptors could solve.” Full story here.

Tweet - @globalzero: China moves nukes into range of US reportedly in response to @POTUS's nuclear posture.

North Korea prepares for another ICBM test - “North Korea is ready to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile ‘at any time, at any place,’ according to a senior regime official speaking exclusively to NBC News. If such a launch was successfully carried out, it would be a major step toward Pyongyang's goal of targeting the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-armed weapon,” write Bill Neely and Mark Hanrahan for NBC News.

--According to Choe Kang Il, deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry, “our measures to bolster our nuclear arsenal are all defensive in nature — to defend our sovereignty and to cope with the persistent nuclear blackmail and threats by the United States against our country.” Due to recent developments, many experts acknowledge that they underestimated North Korean nuclear capabilities. Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, says "Pyongyang is much further along in their missile development than most people realize." Full story here.

Nuclear Japan will not disarm nuclear Pyongyang - “During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that a nuclear-armed Japan might not be a ‘bad thing’ for the United States ‘because of the threat of North Korea,’” writes Daniel Bob for 38 North. “In a recent op-ed, Charles Krauthammer seemed to agree, advising the incoming administration to declare that the United States should no longer oppose Japan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.”

--“Both are wrong: a nuclear-armed Japan would endanger American—and Japanese—security interests, while only reinforcing North Korea’s determination to keep its nuclear weapons as the key to its survival… President Trump’s view that a nuclear-armed Japan might somehow benefit the United States is highly unlikely. Instead, a nuclear-armed Japan, North Korea’s sworn enemy, would reinforce Pyongyang’s view that its nuclear weapons are the key to its survival while sparking an East Asian nuclear arms race that would undermine the US alliance system in Asia, destroy the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and pose a range of new threats to American and regional security.” Full story here.

See also - “Trump Uncertainty Fuels South Korea Nuclear Talk,” by Brian Padden for Voice of America.

Pakistan and India test nuclear-capable missiles - “Early Tuesday morning, Pakistan and India entered a chilling war of nuclear-capable missile tests, fueling tensions in the already war-like relations between the two neighbors. The news comes amid Pakistan’s threats to use all of its weapons, including nuclear weapons, to defend itself against any aggression from India,” writes Polina Tikhonova for Value Walk. “Hours after Pakistan’s missile test on Tuesday, India tested its own guided Pinaka multi-barrel launcher.”

--“While escalation of the long-standing conflict between Pakistan and India to war remains very likely – especially after Pakistan threatened on Monday to use nuclear weapons against India – the neighbors are engaged in furious testing of ballistic missiles... While many experts argue that Pakistan could add about 100 more nuclear warheads to its stockpile and become the world’s fifth largest nuclear power by 2025, the country’s enhancement of nuclear capabilities depends on the magnitude of expansion of India’s nuclear program.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“UN chief Guterres pledges commitment to achieving world free of nuclear weapons,” published by UN News Centre.

--“Trump: Receiving nuclear codes a 'very sobering moment',” by Mallorey Shelbourne for The Hill.

--“Kim Jong Un 'would nuke Los Angeles' if his rule was threatened, North Korea defector reveals,” by Jon Sharman for The Independent.

--“US Humanitarian Aid Goes to North Korea Despite Nuclear Tensions,” by Baik Sung-wo for Voice of America.

--“A Time Out For New NSG Membership,” by Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk.

--“Trident misfire spotlights the danger of fat fingers on nuclear buttons,” a collection of letters published on The Guardian.

--“How would a US President launch a nuclear attack?” a conversation with Bruce Blair and Ruth Alexander on i>.


--“Outlawing State-Sponsored Nuclear Procurement Programs and Recovery of Misappropriated Nuclear Goods," an event hosted by Center for Nonproliferation Studies will take place on January 27, 2017 at 9:00 a.m., located at 1400 K St., Suite 1225, Washington. Find additional information here.

--“NATO, U.S. Missile Defense and Reinforcing the JCPOA,” with Robert Bell, former defense advisor to the U.S. ambassador to NATO. The event will take place on January 27, 2017, from 12:00pm to 2:00 p.m., located at Wilson Center, Sixth Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington. RSVP here.

--“Does the Iran Nuclear Deal Help or Harm U.S. Interests in the Middle East?” with Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) and nine other speakers on January 30, 2017, at 12:00pm. The event will be held at Atlantic Council, 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor (West Tower Elevator), Washington. RSVP here.

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