First fin­ger may be taken off the but­ton

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - RHYS BLAKELY WASH­ING­TON

Congress is to re­view Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s power to launch a nu­clear strike, the first time the com­man­der-in-chief’s con­trol over the US ar­se­nal has been ques­tioned in such a man­ner in more than 40 years.

The re­view will be led by Bob Corker, who chairs the Se­nate for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tee and who has been one of Mr Trump’s most stri­dent Repub­li­can crit­ics. Last month he said that Mr Trump’s reck­less rhetoric could set the US “on the path to World War III”.

US al­lies are try­ing to gauge whether Mr Trump would be will­ing to use a nu­clear weapon against North Korea. In Au­gust he said that threats from Pyongyang would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Weeks later Kim Jong-un claimed to have tested a hy­dro­gen bomb.

Au­thor­ity to or­der the use of a US nu­clear weapon sits in the hands of the pres­i­dent alone and Mr Trump can or­der an un­pro­voked first strike with­out a con­gres­sional dec­la­ra­tion of war. When he trav­els a mil­i­tary aide ac­com­pa­nies him with the “nu­clear foot­ball”, a brief­case con­tain­ing launch codes and at­tack op­tions.

Mr Corker said in a state­ment: “A num­ber of mem­bers both on and off our com­mit­tee have raised ques­tions about the author­i­ties of the leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive branches with re­spect to war­mak­ing, the use of nu­clear weapons and con­duct­ing for­eign pol­icy over­all.”

It will be the first time since 1976 that the Se­nate com­mit­tee or its coun­ter­part in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives “have looked specif­i­cally at the au­thor­ity and process for us­ing nu­clear weapons”, Sen­a­tor Corker added.

In Jan­uary the Democrats in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would end the Pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to launch a first strike. Sen­a­tor Ed­ward Markey, one of the au­thors of the pro­posal, said: “Nu­clear war poses the gravest risk to hu­man sur­vival. Yet Pres­i­dent Trump has sug­gested that he would con­sider launch­ing nu­clear at­tacks against ter­ror­ists.

“By main­tain­ing the op­tion of us­ing nu­clear weapons first in a con­flict, US pol­icy pro­vides him with that power. In a cri­sis with an­other nu­clear-armed coun­try, this pol­icy dras­ti­cally in­creases the risk of un­in­tended nu­clear es­ca­la­tion.”

AFP

The nu­clear foot­ball is re­turned to the White House dur­ing the Obama pres­i­dency

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.