The United States has reportedly considered a shift in its nuclear policy to restrict use of nuclear arms to the “sole purpose” of retaliation, according to The Financial Times (FT) from Britain on Thursday (local time). Amid a growing opposition from its alliances, the Biden administration has decided not to adopt the “no first use” policy but to include the sole purpose principle in the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).
An anonymous source was quoted as saying that the U.S. government will show President Joe Biden options for declaratory policy called “sole purpose” sooner or later, reported the FT, adding that it aims to increase some clarity about when nuclear weapons could be put in practice. It is expected that the White House on Friday (local time) will hold a ministerial meeting to discuss the NPR which will involve the policy in question. Washington plans to publish a new NPR in January.
It has been almost a year since Washington engaged in talks with its alliances including South Korea to decide whether to include the no first use and sole purpose policies in a new NPR. In particular, the no first use policy has garnered great concerns from alliances as Washington would not take nuclear action preemptively unless any nuclear attack is carried out. They argue that any declaratory policy by Washington with some restrictions on use of nuclear power will make it hard to efficiently rein in nuclear states, which apparently hesitate to make a hasty decision to threaten them for fear of Washington’s revenge.
Although the no first use policy has been excluded in the upcoming NPR, such moves can weaken the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States in any way amid growing nuclear threats from China and North Korea. If the sole purpose policy is put in place, threats incurred by biochemical or cutting-edge conventional weapons may not be subject to nuclear deterrence anymore.