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Pentagon Rebuked for Draft Suggesting Nuclear Response to Cyber Attacks

With new nuclear policy draft, the Pentagon is "winding the Doomsday Clock in the wrong direction."

A new policy draft from the Pentagon suggests the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. in the event of non-nuclear attacks—a huge departure from decades of nuclear policy. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Anti-nuclear advocates on Wednesday denounced a draft Pentagon report pushing the use of nuclear weapons by the United States to respond to non-nuclear attacks—a major departure from the policy that's been in place for decades.

The draft Nuclear Posture Review expands the definition of the "extreme circumstances" in which the U.S. could use nuclear force, notably suggesting that such weapons could be used in the event of cyber attacks.

"Common sense must prevail, and the U.S. must move to a world where the use of nuclear weapons is less likely, not more likely," said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in a statement.

"There is something seriously wrong with an administration who thinks the unilateral power for one person to end the world is somehow not enough power."—Beatrice Fihn, ICAN

"They are winding the Doomsday Clock in the wrong direction," she added, referring to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' symbolic measure of humanity's proximity to nuclear  catastrophe.

The draft was released after months of escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over the latter's reported nuclear activities. Amid calls from nuclear policy experts to bring Kim Jong-un's government to the negotiating table, President Donald Trump has responded to reports of nuclear tests by North Korea by threatening to "totally destroy" the country of 25 million people, while taunting Kim on social media.

While the U.S. and Russia hold about 93 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, according to the Ploughshares Fund, Trump has repeatedly attacked previous administrations for allowing North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons at all.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Posture Review draft suggests that the U.S. is searching for ways to increase its already-significant advantage over the small, isolated country.

"These new leaks from the Pentagon show they are trying to make it easier for Donald Trump to use nuclear weapons," said Fihn. "Does anybody seriously think it was not easy enough already? There is something seriously wrong with an administration who thinks the unilateral power for one person to end the world is somehow not enough power."

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