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Group Foresees No "Real" Nuke Curbs in Short Term

(Jun. 7) -A U.S. Trident 2 D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, shown in 1999. Nuclear-weapon modernization efforts under way in various countries have mitigated the impact of a reduction in the world's total number of nuclear warheads since 2009, according to an expert analysis issued on Tuesday (Getty Images). (Jun. 7) -A U.S. Trident 2 D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, shown in 1999. Nuclear-weapon modernization efforts under way in various countries have mitigated the impact of a reduction in the world's total number of nuclear warheads since 2009, according to an expert analysis issued on Tuesday (Getty Images).

The world's total quantity of nuclear warheads has fallen by more than 2,000 since 2009, but the reduction's relevance is undercut by updates that governments are pursuing to their atomic arsenals, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in an annual report published on Tuesday (see GSN, June 3, 2010).

"More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a high state of alert," Agence France-Presse quoted the group as saying in the assessment, SIPRI Yearbook 2011.

The organization said in excess of 20,500 nuclear warheads are presently held by the eight nuclear-armed countries: China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"The nuclear weapons states are modernizing and are investing in their nuclear weapon establishments, so it seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future," SIPRI Deputy Director Daniel Nord said in an interview. The five nations deemed legitimate nuclear powers under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- have all either begun to field updated nuclear-weapon technologies or signaled they intend to modernize their systems, Nord noted.

The analysis says the United States held 2,150 launch-ready nuclear warheads and 6,350 in reserve as of January, while Russia held 2,427 launch-ready warheads and 8,573 in reserve at that time. A bilateral strategic arms control treaty that entered into force in February would require each nation to deploy no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads by 2018 (see GSN, June 2).

Nord said the rivalry between nuclear powers India and Pakistan now comprises the greatest atomic danger (see GSN, June 6). The South Asia region is "the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race," he said.

North Korea, the report states, "is believed to have produced enough plutonium to build a small number of nuclear warheads" (see related GSN story, today).

Iranian atomic activities do not yet constitute a major danger, said Nord, who expressed greater concern about "the consequences when the concerned states like Israel or the United States decide that they will have to intervene and do something about the program in Iran" (see related GSN story, today; Igor Gedilaghine, Agence France-Presse/Google News, June 7).

The SIPRI report also warns of the threat posed to the Biological Weapons Convention by "the increasing overlap between the chemical and biological sciences" (see GSN, April 12).

Separately, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director General Ahmet Üzümcü has "established an advisory panel to review the implementation of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, with a focus on how the convention’s activities should be structured after the destruction of chemical weapon stockpiles ends, sometime after 2012," a summary of the report says (see GSN, April 29).

"Iran and Russia questioned whether the United Kingdom and the United States had fully complied with CWC provisions for the declaration and OPCW-verified destruction of chemical munitions recovered in Iraq in 2003.

"The parties to the CWC must achieve a clearer understanding of the role of the convention in support of

international peace and security once chemical weapon stockpiles are essentially destroyed," the document says. "Failure to do so risks undermining the perceived daily operational-level value of the regime. Determining what constitutes noncompliance with a convention obligation is a recurring theme that states must continue to actively and constructively address" (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report, June 7).

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