The United States is not pursuing a “no-first-use” policy with regard to its nuclear weapons, says US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Under the no-first-use doctrine, a nuclear power undertakes not to be the first one to use nuclear arms during a possible war.
“It has been the policy of the United States for a long time to extend its nuclear umbrella to friends and allies, and thereby to contribute to the deterrence of conflict and the deterrence of war,” Carter said at a nuclear research facility in New Mexico on Tuesday.
The comments were made after US President Barack Obama was considering an overhaul of the country’s nuclear policy, including the implementation of a no-first-use one.
America and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members do not currently stick to such a policy, while China, considered an adversary nuclear power by Washington, maintains that.
According to Carter, opting for the first nuclear strike at a possible future war "has been our policy for a long time, and is part of our plans going forward.”
The issue came into the spotlight by GOP nominee Donald Trump, saying he was ready to resort to nuclear strikes.
During a debate with his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, when the subject was brought up again, Trump said that he "would certainly not do first strike.”
"We have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table," he, however, added.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers in Congress are making efforts to bar the president from launching a nuclear strike without a Congressional declaration of war.
"Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, US policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation," said Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, who co-sponsored the bill with House Representative Ted Lieu from California. "The president should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.”