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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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The United States nuclear strategy has issues


President Trump has consistently acted against logical reasoning when it comes to nuclear strategy. This could prove to be dangerous. | Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

Historically, the United States has assumed the role of acting as the world’s nuclear police force. Whether it’s through direct country-country deals with Russia, Iran, North Korea, and India, or through broader policy measures such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, it’s clear that the United States has taken the lead on this issue.

Through these talks, treaties and negotiated deals, the United States has been able to push for decreased nuclear proliferation and for more disarmament around the world. Recently, however, it appears the United States has made questionable decisions as it pertains to working toward a safer nuclear environment.

Specifically, the United States’ approach to dealing with a nuclear Iran and North Korea is woefully ineffective in preventing further nuclearization and is indicative of President Trump’s proclivities as opposed to sound policy. The United States seems to have its policy decisions backward when it comes to working with these two countries to denuclearize, and if our country doesn’t act soon, we will lose on both fronts.

Satellite images released by Beyond Parallel in November 2018 show that North Korea has continued to work on its ballistic missile program, despite the victory President Trump claimed in convincing North Korea to work toward denuclearization.

Not only do U.S. officials have confirmed information that North Korea is continuing to work on its ballistic missile program, but analysis conducted by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies revealed an undisclosed military base in the interior of North Korea capable of housing long-range missiles. Leaked pieces of information such as this show that North Korea is working on nuclear weapons as if the meeting with Trump did not happen.

In light of the highly-publicized summit President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended in Singapore in June 2018, Trump’s lack of formal action against North Korea is apparent.

The overtly vague joint statement signed by both leaders at the end of the June summit lacks a verifiable plan of action, noting that both countries will “commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously” without explaining clearly what those stipulations are.

People who support President Trump will claim that this statement is a step in the right direction and that more action will follow, but Trump’s words indicate otherwise.

In a White House press conference on Nov. 7, 2018, after the midterm elections, Trump was questioned about further meetings with Kim Jong-un, to which he replied, “We think it’s going fine. We’re in no rush. We’re in no hurry.”

This lack of urgency, coupled with Trump’s false claim of success in diminishing the nuclear threat  posed by North Korea, fails to function as sound nuclear policy and places the United States in an even more precarious position as North Korea continues to proliferate nuclear weapons.

In Nov. 2018, prior to the second meeting scheduled between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, Vice President Pence stated in an interview with NBC News that, “Until we have a plan—and that plan is implemented—to achieve complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, we’re going to keep the pressure on.”

If, and only if, President Trump is able to reach this kind of deal can he confidently say that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat”- a statement which, by the way, he already tweeted out after his meeting at the summit last June.

The Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump’s action in abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran is counterintuitive. The Iran nuclear deal, a multi-national deal reached between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany, is exactly the kind of verifiable denuclearization plan that Vice President Pence called for with North Korea.

The Iran nuclear deal, penned in 2015 under the Obama administration, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and provided oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Despite the Iran deal being hailed as an international success on many fronts, Trump campaigned on scrapping the deal as soon as he took office. He certainly stayed true to his word. With virtually no real reasoning except for the constant mention that it was “one-sided” and gave Iran too much, President Trump withdrew the United States from the historic deal, leaving the entire world in a compromised position.

By abandoning the deal, the United States has jeopardized the entire multinational deal and more importantly the stability of the nuclear community by withdrawing from the only deal that stood in the way of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

Since the United States’ withdrawal from the deal, Iran is preparing to increase its uranium enrichment capacity significantly above what is allowed by the 2015 deal that used to be in place.  The little justification the United States provided for pulling out of a functioning deal along with Iran’s commitment to ramping up uranium enrichment could mean an irreparable strain on United States-Iran nuclear negotiations. Furthermore, if Iran is allowed to enrich uranium as it plans to this could bolster an irreversible step in obtaining nuclear weapons that the U.S. and other countries have worked to avoid for so many years.

The nuclear policy strategy practiced by President Trump is a dangerous reminder that he takes issue with facts. Not only has the president abandoned a nuclear deal with Iran that was verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but he has also allowed unmitigated nuclear proliferation in North Korea by claiming success .

It is imperative that the United States seek re-entry into the Iran nuclear deal or make another deal with Iran, in addition to seeking a verifiable deal with North Korea before it’s too late. Inaction now could mean both Iran and North Korea making irreversible leaps and bounds toward the procurement of nuclear weapons.

Opinion columnist Ryan Nowrouzi is a biomedical sciences junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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