Moscow, U.S. Targets at Nuke Debates




UNITED NATIONS - Most countries in the world were expected to tell the United States and Russia on Monday that they are endangering the earth's safety by deploying and stockpiling far too many nuclear weapons.


Russia's decision to ratify START II, the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, as well as the global nuclear test ban earlier this month, removes some of the pessimism at a month-long review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, in New York, UN officials said.


But Moscow's decision to store rather than destroy 20,000 non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons is bound to cause concern along with U.S. plans to refurbish its reserve of 2,500 to 3,000 warheads after START II's limit of 3,500 deployed warheads for each side is activated.


Signatories to the 1970 NPT, the cornerstone in arms reduction treaties, meet every five years to review progress and set new goals.


This year's conference, beginning on Monday, is the first since the main nuclear states convinced the rest of the world five years ago to extend the treaty indefinitely.


Under the treaty, only five countries - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - are permitted to have nuclear arms. The other 182 parties to the treaty have to renounce nuclear weapons for good.


In turn, the five have promised to move toward getting rid of the estimated 20,000 strategic and tactical nuclear arms they have between them, the vast majority in the United States and Russia.


Many non-nuclear nations believe the two big atomic powers have no true strategy for disarmament and have found ways around reduction agreements to maintain their arsenals.


WASHINGTON (WP) - While U.S. and Russian negotiators work on a new treaty to sharply reduce strategic nuclear weapons, the U.S. Navy is upgrading a 20-year-old submarine-launched warhead to enable it to destroy any remaining super-hardened Russian missile silos, according to U.S. government officials and private analysts.


More than 2,000 of the aging W-76 warheads will soon be going through the Energy Department's service life extension program to be put back in submarines beginning in 2005.


Each warhead now has a destructive power more than three times greater than that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. After they are refurbished, the W-76 warheads will have a greater destructive effect on their buried, reinforced targets than when they first went to sea in 1977.


Delegates to the NPT conference in New York are expected to complain about U.S. plans to refurbish and upgrade its 6,000 deployed strategic warheads, such as the W-76, and Washington's intention to maintain in an "inactive reserve" weapons withdrawn from deployment when START II's limit of 3,500 warheads goes into effect.