1252 GMT March 19, 2018
Under the president’s direction, Defense Secretary James Mattis is tasked with ensuring that Washington’s nuclear arsenal is “safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White said in a statement on Monday.
“Secretary Mattis directed the commencement of the review, which will be led by the deputy secretary of defense and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and include inter-agency partners. The process will culminate in a final report to the president by the end of the year,” the statement added.
According to reports, Washington is currently keeping some 450 long-range nuclear missiles in underground silos across the US, in addition to an undisclosed number deployed to its military bases in Europe.
The US military can also use its fleet of ballistic missile submarines and long-range strategic bombers such as B-2 and B-52 to deploy its arsenal of more than 7,000 nuclear warheads to any target around the world.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force confirmed last week that it had test-dropped an upgraded gravity nuclear bomb to see whether its lighter fighter jets can carry the deadly weapon.
Trump has made it clear that he would expand America’s nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack.”
Trump’s order comes amid a heated war of words between the US and North Korea over an imminent nuclear confrontation.
On Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to South Korea’s border with the North and warned that the Washington’s era of patience with Pyongyang was over.
The US has also warned China, North Korea’s main trading partner, to resolve the situation.
Trump told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during their summit in Florida earlier this month that the US would “act alone” if China fails to help end the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Washington has even sent an aircraft carrier-led strike group to the western Pacific Ocean close to the Korean Peninsula amid growing fears over the North’s weapons tests.
Pyongyang, however, has threatened the US with “all-out war” in response, asserting that it will continue to test missiles on a weekly basis now.