06/15/2020, 15.46
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SIPRI: fewer nuclear weapons in the world but more in Asia

The number of warheads dropped from 13,865 to 13,400 due to cuts in the US and Russia. China’s arsenal grows from 290 to 320. The stockpiles of Pakistan, India and North Korea are also up; Israel’s is stable. Differences between Washington, Moscow and Beijing could undermine decades of anti-proliferation action.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined, except in Asia with China showing the greatest increase, this according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released today.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of nuclear warheads dropped from 13,865 to 13,400, with the United States and Russia – which together still possess more than 90 per cent of global nuclear weapons – dismantling part of their retired nuclear weapons under the 2010 New Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty START.

By contrast, China has gone from 290 to 320 nuclear warheads. To get to the level of the US and Russia, China’s military is working on building a nuclear triad with new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.

Pakistan has the largest number of warheads after China at 160, up by ten over last year. Pakistan’s historic rival, India has 150 warheads, up from 130-140.

Israel, which last year had between 80 and 90 warheads, now has 90.

North Korea, which has been isolated from the international community (except for China and to a lesser extent Russia) and under international sanctions for its nuclear missile programme, is estimated to have 30 to 40 warheads, up from 20 to 30 in 2019.

This shows that the moratorium on nuclear and ballistic tests, unilaterally decreed by the Kim Jong-un regime in 2019 as part of the negotiations with the Trump administration, did not dampen its military ambitions.

Unlike the United States, Russia, Great Britain and France, Asia’s nuclear powers do not share information about their nuclear capabilities, especially with respect to the deployment, status and size of their stockpile. For example, Israel has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal.

The 2010 New START treaty is scheduled to expire in February 2021; negotiations between Washington and Moscow for its extension have made little progress.

This is due in part to the US administration’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks—something that China has categorically ruled out. 

For analysts, the stalemate between the three powers – all engaged in the modernisation of their respective nuclear forces – could undermined decades of multilateral action to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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