Back in January, as tensions between the US and Iran were rising, some experts feared President Trump might consider turning to nukes to remedy things. Now, sources tell the Washington Post that the Trump administration has broached the subject of holding a nuclear test, the first time the US has done so in nearly 30 years. A senior administration official and two ex-officials say the topic came up during a May 15 meeting of top reps from the national security agencies, in response to rumors that Russia and China are carrying out low-yield nuclear tests of their own, even though both countries have said that's not true and there's been no evidence (at least not any that's publicly available) to show that. The US hasn't conducted such a test since September 1992, and the Post notes "serious disagreements" arose at the meeting over the possibility.
Advocates argued that such a demo would show Russia and China that the US is able to "rapid test," which could give the US leverage during nuclear regulation negotiations. Daryl Kimball, head of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, disagrees. "If this administration believes that a nuclear test explosion and nuclear brinkmanship is going to coerce negotiating partners to make unilateral concessions, that's a dangerous ploy," he tells the Post. One source says the possibility of holding a test is "very much an ongoing conversation," even though the May 15 meeting didn't end with any movement on it, but another source says the meeting ended with a decision to go down other paths instead to push back on the Russia-China threat. Kimball stands by his assertion a nuclear test would be a mistake. "It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race," he says. (Read more nuclear test stories.)