US President Barack Obama has signed legislation that, by striking a single word from longstanding US nuclear defence policy, could heighten tensions with Russia and China and launch the country on an expensive effort to build space-based defence systems.
The National Defence Authorisation Act, a year-end policy bill encompassing virtually every aspect of the US military, contained two provisions with potentially momentous consequences.
One struck the word “limited” from language describing the mission of the country’s homeland missile defence system. The system is said to be designed to thwart a small-scale attack by a non-superpower such as North Korea or Iran.
A related provision calls for the Pentagon to start “research, development, test and evaluation” of space-based systems for missile defence.
Together, the provisions signal that the US will seek to use advanced technology to defeat both small-scale and large-scale nuclear attacks.
It defies the laws of physics and is not based on science of any kind