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FILE - In this June 24, 2014 file photo, a gate is closed at an ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, N.D., on the Minot Air Force Base. The Pentagon has thrown a cloak of official secrecy over assessments of how safely and securely its nuclear weapons are operated, maintained and guarded, closing a window onto an already obscure part of the military with a history of periodic inspection failures and lapses in morale. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

New nuclear weapon would deter North Korea, Defense Secretary Mattis says

(PhatzNewsRoom / USA Today)   —-    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s new nuclear strategy calls for smaller weapons designed to deter North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.

Mattis told reporters at the White House that the weapon would be used to deter one nation in particular, clearly suggesting North Korea, which has threatened to use its nuclear arsenal against the United States.

Having a smaller nuclear weapon would allow the Pentagon to respond to a limited nuclear strike by North Korea, he said.

“Don’t miscalculate,” Mattis said, in what was essentially warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The new nuclear strategy was released last week. It calls for the Pentagon’s nuclear arsenal to be modernized, a process begun in the Obama administration. The arsenal, under President Trump, would also be expanded to include the smaller, nuclear weapons.

Critics, including Rep. Adam Smith, the Washington Democrat and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, have said smaller nuclear weapons could make war more likely given their more limited impact.

Mattis also praised a proposed budget deal that removes budget caps will allow the Pentagon to fund programs that have been short changed in previous years. The extra spending is vital.

“America can afford survival,” he said.

The budget caps date to the 2011 Budget Control Act that was intended to limit funding for the military until Congress agreed to a long-term spending plan. Congress has waived those caps and boosted spending in the past.

Trump will seek about a 7% increase in the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2019. That spending plan is expected to be released next week. The Pentagon would spend $716 billion in 2019. Nearly $600 billion of that money would be in its base budget to maintain the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force and to buy weapons. The balance would be used to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists.

Mattis also said the Pentagon was developing plans for a military parade in Washington and will offer the White House options.

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