Five-year decline in warheads hides 16,300 weapons still held by nine nuclear-capable nations amid ongoing modernisation programmes
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) warned yesterday that the world’s nuclear weapons powers appear determined to maintain their nuclear capacity indefinitely.
Sipri said that, although there has been a steady decline in the number of nuclear warheads over the past five years, the nine nuclear weapons-capable countries still hold around 16,300 weapons.
This was down by around 5.6 per cent from last year, but the pace of reduction seemed to be slowing compared with a decade ago, the Swedish institute said.
And existing stocks are being carefully and comprehensively updated.
The US and Russia “have extensive modernisation programmes underway for their remaining nuclear delivery systems, warheads and production facilities,” Sipri said.
The nuclear arsenals of other countries are considerably smaller, but they are also “either developing or deploying new weapons or have announced their intention to do so.”
Sipri identified nine nuclear weapon states — the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, though only five of these — the US, Russia, France, Britain and China — are officially registered as such.
The four others are outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But institute researchers noted that all the weapons-capable states shared a reluctance to relinquish the weapons.
“Once again this year, the nuclear weapon-possessing states took little action to indicate any genuine willingness to work toward complete dismantlement of their nuclear arsenals,” researchers Shannon Kile and Phillip Schell said.
Reductions in US and Russian nuclear weapons under the New Start treaty ratified in 2011 were the main factor behind the decline in global numbers.
Non-nuclear weapon states often criticise the nuclear states for not living up to their part of the 1970 treaty, when nations without atomic bombs pledged not to seek them and nuclear states agreed to pursue disarmament.
US President Barack Obama proposed cutting nuclear arsenals by a third last year.
But there has been little progress because of the projected US-Nato anti-missile shield around Western Europe, which Russia opposes.
Moscow has said it is unlikely to make further weapons cuts unless its concerns are addressed.