The Obama administration has been secretly working on a review of U.S. nuclear weapons in what officials say is part of the White House effort to make deeper cuts on strategic nuclear forces.
“The administration has made up its mind that they want to go lower, and the only way to go lower is to change the militar y requirements for how many weapons are needed,” said a U.S. official familiar with the review.
The review has been dubbed a “mini-NPR,” after the Nuclear Posture Review conducted last year that coincided with lameduck Senate approval in December of the New START treaty, which calls for cutting nuclear arms to 5,000 warheads.
Pentagon and U.S. Strategic Command spokesmen had no immediate comment.
The mini-NPR is now looking for even lower levels, raising new concerns among national security officials about whether the United States will be able to deter China’s growing and largely secret nuclear forces or a revanchist Russia that is also bolstering its arsenal.
Administration officials have made references to the nuclearweapons-cutting effort in recent weeks.
Among them were Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification. She said at a conference on deterrence in August that “the United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a stepby-step process to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons,” including through a possible agreement with Russia that would cover all types of nuclear arms: strategic, tactical and deployed and non-deployed.
Gary Samore, White House arms control coordinator, said in May that the review of nuclear arms was under way.
“We’ll need to do a strategic review of what our force requirements are, and then, based on that, the president will have options available for additional reductions,” he told Arms Control Today. “That review is ongoing.”
Mr. Samore noted that the review is taking time because “we’ve reached the level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad, or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad.”
The current triad strategic force consists of three types of delivery systems: land-based missiles, bombers and submarine missiles.
It is not known which delivery system would be placed on the chopping block under the mini-NPR.
Mr. Samore noted that if there is no agreement or treaty for the next nuclear cuts, “even unilateral” cuts are being considered. leased State Department cable.
The July 6, 2007, dispatch, labeled “secret,” said the U.S. government was concerned about North Korean efforts to buy equipment and technology used in producing counterfeit U.S. currency.
“Nor th Korea has approached Drent Goebel of Germany to purchase an intaglio press, capable of counterfeiting U.S. currency,” the cable said.
“The U.S. has repeatedly warned both Germany and Drent Goebel that North Korea could use this equipment to produce counterfeit U.S. currency.”
German officials promised to block the currency press sale to Pyongyang.
The Secret Service, according to the cable, has evidence that the North Koreans continue to “produce and distr ibute counterfeit U.S. currency.”
“Over the past several years, the U.S. Secret Service has implemented an aggressive campaign to stop the counterfeiting of U.S. currency by [Nor th Korea] through disruptions in the supply of materials and equipment used to produce counterfeit U.S. currency,” the cable said.
It noted that the North Koreans were linked to the production and distribution of highquality counterfeit $100 bills called “supernotes.”
“These counterfeit banknotes are produced in the same manner as U.S. currency, utilizing similar processes and materials as U.S. currency,” the cable said.
Also noted was the fact that the German company.
“Both sets of equipment are suitable for the production of counterfeit U.S. currency, possibly including supernotes,” the cable said.
Since the cable, U.S. and diplomatic officials in Washington have revealed that North Korean government counterfeiting is directed by Gen. O Kuk-ryol, a confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
North Korean supernotes were discovered in Las Vegas in 2008; in Pusan, South Korea, in 2009; and earlier in the Philippines.
The supernotes are made on a high-quality currency printing press identified at the Pyongsong Trademark Printing Factory in North Korea, run by the operations department of the Korean Workers Party, which is headed by Gen. O.
The insider Nelson Report newsletter, written by former Hill staffer Chris Nelson, reported on Sept. 16 that it has “passed on unofficial administration requests not to write about the [F-16] A/B decision as an explicit ‘no’ to C/Ds.”
“Rather we have been repeatedly urged [. . .] please make clear that the decision should be seen as about A/B retrofitting only [. . .] and not a ‘no’ on C/Ds.”
Mr. Nelson stated further that “we’ve been repeatedly requested, don’t write something which seems to rule out administration consideration of C/D’s at some point, even if not necessarily before the end of this year.”
That spin was reflected in a Sept. 17 report in New York Times, often described by critics as a house organ for the administration, that stated the president has not ruled out selling the new F-16s.
An administration official then briefed reporters on Sept. 20 at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where President Obama was staying for the U.N. General Assembly.
“And we’re obviously prepared to consider further sales in the future,” the official said.
The reality, according to a senior administration official, is that the sale of C/D jets was blocked by the president at the urging of National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon, who was advised to do so by NSC staff aides Daniel R. Russel and Evan S. Medeiros amid concerns that new jet sales would upset China.
The administration announced on Sept. 21 that it will upgrade Taiwan’s 145 F-16 A/Bs.
Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretar y of state for verification, has said that “we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons.”