World

U.S. tightens rules for nuclear weapons use

A new U.S. policy restricting the use of nuclear weapons against some states does not apply to countries such as Iran or North Korea, Defence Secretary Robert Gates says.

A new U.S. policy restricting the use of nuclear weapons against some states does not apply to countries such as Iran or North Korea, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

Gates said under the new plan — which lays out guidelines under which the U.S. would use nuclear weapons — Washington pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty.

Gates told reporters on Tuesday that if one of those countries were to use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. or its allies, they would face a "devastating conventional military response" but not a nuclear one.

But Gates said this policy could change, given the evolution and proliferation of biological weapons.

However, the policy, known as the Nuclear Posture Review,  would not apply to North Korea, Iran or other countries that refuse to co-operate with the international community on nonproliferation standards.

"All options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category," Gates said.

Gates said the administration decided against limiting the nation's options further because of the danger still being posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"This is obviously a weapon of last resort," Gates said.

In a statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said the policy recognizes that the greatest threat to security is nuclear proliferation and that national security "can be increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defences."

He said the strategy will maintain "a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent" for the United States as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world.

Obama added that the U.S will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.

With files from The Associated Press

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