WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump’s new National Biodefence Strategy creates a cabinet-level steering committee that will act to protect Americans against biological weapons and other potential bio-threats, the White House said in a press release on Monday.

“The biodefence National Security Presidential Memorandum names the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, as the Federal lead for biodefence and establishes a Cabinet-level Biodefence Steering Committee,” the release said.

US Will Not Agree to Missile Defence Limits in New Treaties With Russia

The Trump administration is determined not to agree to any restrictions on its missile defence programs in any strategic agreement it seeks to negotiate or update with Russia, two senior US officials told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

“Yes, senator,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson said when she was asked by a member of the Foreign Relations Committee if she would refuse to agree to limiting US missile defence programs in any negotiations with Russia.

Deputy Under Secretary of Defence for Policy David Trachtenberg immediately confirmed Thompson’s expressed position.

“I would agree with that statement, senator,” Trachtenberg told the Foreign Relations Committee.

Trachtenberg also confirmed that the Department of Defence did not have any weapons system capable of defending against the Russian strategic nuclear arsenal and continued to rely instead on its deterrence capabilities.

US So Far Failed to Raise Russia’s New Weapons in START Treaty Forum

The United States has not yet raised the subject of Russia’s new strategic weapons announced by President Vladimir Putin in any formal negotiations with Moscow or requested further information on them, a senior US official said on Tuesday.

“I have not done so… The only way we’ve seen that has been in the open press,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson told a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We have not had the engagement on New START [New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] with my counterpart on the Russia side.

On March 1, Putin announced a series of new Russian weapons systems as an asymmetric response to US missile defences and the deployment of NATO forces on Russia’s borders.

However, Thompson said the US government was taking its own measures to independently verify the new Russian weapons.

“What he [Putin] says is not necessarily ground truth… We still have some intelligence to gather on that… We’ve taken action in our own community not through the formal process… We’re working with our agencies and allies to confirm [the new weapons],” Thompson said.

The US government, Thompson acknowledged, had not raised the subject of the new Russian weapons in any New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) discussions or asked whether any of the new weapons systems were allegedly in violation of the treaty.

“We’ve looked at it internally. We haven’t taken it to our [Russian diplomatic] counterparts,” Thompson said.

Any US decision on extending the New START Treaty would depend on whether it covered Russia’s recently announced strategic nuclear weapons, Thompson added.