As North Korea makes advances on its nuclear program, conducting its most powerful test yet earlier this month, United States Defense Secretary James Mattis will meet with U.S. Strategic Command leadership on Thursday, at the military facility that would conduct a nuclear war.
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During his trip to the base near Omaha, Neb. – one of nine U.S. unified commands under the Department of Defense (DoD) – Mattis is expected to discuss modern deterrence strategies with USSTRATCOM officials. These leaders are in charge of not only the military’s deterrence strategy, but also making sure the country can respond to situations swiftly and appropriately, if necessary, and anticipate “warfighting demands.” They also are in charge of early warning and defense procedures in the event of a missile attack.
Secretary Mattis is embarking on a comprehensive tour of the United States’ key nuclear facilities following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test of what it claims to be a hydrogen bomb on Sept. 3. New analysis shows that test was stronger than previously estimated, yielding about 250 kilotons, according to think tank 38 North. Initial assessments ranged up to 160 kilotons.
On Wednesday, Mattis visited the nuclear facility in Minot, N.D., which is the only base to house two of the three legs of the nuclear triad – including strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Department of Defense. Earlier this year, Mattis toured the nuclear submarine base in Washington. After his visit Wednesday, he visited each of the three legs of the nuclear triad.
Shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he ordered a Nuclear Posture Review of the U.S. capabilities, strategies and defense systems, which is expected to be completed later this year. The DoD said in a statement earlier this week that Mattis’ visit comes at an “opportune time” given the ongoing review. According to the Arms Control Association, the U.S. has about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles and Strategic Bombers, and about 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bases in five European countries.
After his visit to the Nebraska base on Thursday, Mattis will head to Mexico City where he will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to North American defense.