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Report: US officials discussed conducting first nuke test in decades

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test on May 9, 2019, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Washington Post has reported that officials in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration discussed whether to conduct the country’s first nuclear test explosion since 1992.

The newspaper on May 22 cited a senior administration official and two former officials as saying the topic came up at a meeting of top national-security officials last week.

What prompted the discussion was U.S. suspicions that both Russia and China have been conducting low-yield nuclear tests in recent years.

The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a nuclear test. A decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response and to avoid a resumption of testing, the Post said.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear test explosions of any size, has not been ratified by enough countries to take effect, but the world’s major powers have agreed to abide by its terms. The United States has not ratified it.

The treaty allows test activities for countries to ensure the safety and reliability of their arsenals, as long as they don’t produce a fission explosive yield.

Last year, the director of the Pentagon’s intelligence agency caused a stir when he asserted that Russia had moved forward in developing new nonstrategic nuclear weapons and might have been violating an international test ban in place for decades.

“The United States believes Russia is probably not adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the zero-yield standard,” Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C. thinktank, in May 2019.