Moscow, Washington; 10 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia said today that reductions of nuclear weapons agreed with the United States must be "irreversible," responding to Pentagon comments that some U.S. warheads will not be destroyed but merely put in storage. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in a statement that further nuclear weapons reductions must be "radical," "controllable," and "irreversible" so that the arms cuts do not remain "only on paper."
U.S. President George W. Bush last year pledged to cut the number of U.S. nuclear warheads by two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to cut Russian nuclear warheads to as low as 1,500.
"Russian-American agreements on further reductions in nuclear arsenals should be, first, radical -- only 1,500-2,200 weapons; second, controllable; and third, irreversible so that strategic offensive weapons aren't just reduced 'on paper,'" Yakovenko said, according to AP.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday that some of the decommissioned U.S. warheads will be destroyed, but others will be kept as what he called "a hedge against unforeseen technical or international events." Fleischer also said the U.S. has no plans to resume nuclear-weapons testing. A published report yesterday said Bush's administration wants to shorten the time required to resume tests in case they are needed.
Some of the warheads would be destroyed, J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of defense for international security, was quoted by AP as saying. Crouch said the United States needs to keep the warheads in reserve in case the world situation changes and that most previous arms control treaties do not require warheads to be destroyed.
Yakovenko said in his statement that "the relevance of [international agreements on nonproliferation and dismantlement], unfortunately, is growing in light of the erroneous decision by the United States to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty." Washington announced its plan to pull out of that 1972 agreement in December.
Meanwhile, a U.S. intelligence report released yesterday said China could increase its arsenal of long-range nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States from about 20 to 100 in the next 15 years, Reuters reported. The National Intelligence Estimate, a combined analysis by various intelligence agencies, was issued in December ahead of the release yesterday of an unclassified version.
"The IC [intelligence community] has differing projections of the overall size of Chinese strategic ballistic missile forces over the next 15 years, ranging from about 75 to 100 warheads deployed primarily against the United States," Reuters quoted the report saying.
China currently has about 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with a single nuclear warhead capable of reaching targets in the United States and roughly a dozen long-range missiles as deterrents against targets in Russia and Asia, the agency reported, citing the report.