Retired General: US Military Leaders Would Reject Nuclear First-Strike Orders

"We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapon strike that is wildly out of step with US national security interests", Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy said.

Despite that dire warning, Mr Corker deliberately did not couch a hearing of the committee he chairs on presidential nuclear powers as a rebuke to Mr Trump, saying "this is not specific to anybody". Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker will hold a hearing Tuesday on the authority of the President to maintain sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.

Kehler, the former commander of the United States Strategic Command for two and a half years from January 2011 to November 2013, testified that Trump's has the unilateral authority to order a nuclear strike - but he does not necessarily have the uncurbed ability to carry one out. "It's going to be a very robust period of time".

"This is not a hypothetical question", Mr Cardin said, noting that a nuclear first strike on North Korea could be an alternative to a conventional military campaign that would produce mass casualties in Japan and South Korea.

"The president would not make this decision by himself", said Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary for policy with the Department of Defense. "Nothing happens automatically", he noted.

In August, the national security adviser, HR McMaster, raised the prospect of a "preventative war", but many observers of the Korean standoff said any conflict was highly likely to quickly escalate into a nuclear exchange. The commander could try to override the order by sending a launch termination order, Blair said.

If an 'illegal order' to strike North Korea or some other country is handed down, the military is 'obligated' to refuse it, said Kehler, a former commander of the Pentagon's nuclear weapons division.

The panel ultimately, however, appeared to side against reining in the president's power to exercise nuclear authority.

Protesters at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the presidential authority to order a nuclear strike
Protesters at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing

"If we saw they were preparing to do so and it was imminent, I could imagine it", Mattis said.

"I want the president to act in a way that acknowledges input from a lot of experts, and not to act based on a Twitter post", said Sen.

"I don't think that the assurances that I've received today will be satisfying to the American people", Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey said.

Trump's administration is in the process of completing a nuclear posture review that's slated to come out early next year after a slight delay. The command would control nuclear forces in a war.

"Let me pull back the cover for a minute from this hearing", said Sen. These codes are recorded on a card known as the biscuit that is carried by the president at all times.

"The system is designed entirely for speed, not deliberation", said Stephen Young, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

If the answer is no, the order would have to be considered illegal, he said. And days after calling on Kim to enter peaceful negotiations, he spoke before South Korea's parliament and listed a litany of alleged human rights abuses against the North Korean leader, calling him a "deranged tyrant" presiding over a "cult". "Now the question is just the one that you've described, is the process leading to that determination and how you arrive at that. It is not clear it would be any different for a nuclear first strike, despite Gen Kehler's statements".

  • Montenegro Chinchilla