Nations modernising nuclear warheads, says report

Updated June 18, 2019

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The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published on Monday said. — Reuters/File
The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published on Monday said. — Reuters/File

STOCKHOLM: The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published on Monday said.

At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018.

But at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernising these arms, and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals.

“The world is seeing fewer but newer weapons,” Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Programme and one of the report’s authors, told AFP.

The drop in recent years can mainly be attributed to the US and Russia, whose combined arsenals still make up more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

This is in part due to the countries fulfilling their obligations under the New START treaty — which puts a cap on the number of deployed warheads and was signed by the US and Russia in 2010 — as well as getting rid of obsolete warheads from the Cold War era.

The START treaty is however due to expire in 2021, which Kile said was worrying since there are currently “no serious discussions under way about extending it”.

Next year the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — considered the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order — turns 50.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019