The Obama administration has unveiled a new defence policy restricting the use of US nuclear weapons. For the first time the United States has pledged not to use atomic weapons against non-nuclear countries. In the Bush era that threat existed in the event of a biological or chemical attack.
But, in a move that is seen as beign aimed at Iran and North Korea, countries deemed to have violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would not be protected.
The US now says it would consider the use of nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances”, and would not develop any new warheads.
The pledges echo President Obama’s promise to move towards a world without nuclear weapons when he spoke in Prague a year ago.
In April 2009 he pledged to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy and urged others to do the same.
President Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year partly for his stance on nuclear disarmament, said today that the biggest and most immediate danger came not from individual states, but from Al Qaeda and its allies looking to get hold of atomic weapons.
On Thursday the President is due to sign a new nuclear arms reduction in Prague with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. Agreed last month, it commits both countries to big cuts in warheads.