The Foreign Affairs News The Leading News Portal
Jun 17, 2024

Role of nuclear weapons grows indicates SIPRI’s new year book

Avatar photo
FA News Desk

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) today launches its annual assessment of the state of armaments, disarmament and international security.

The 55th edition of the SIPRI Yearbook analyses the continuing deterioration of global security over the past year. The SIPRI Yearbook is a compendium of cutting-edge information and analysis on developments in armaments, disarmament and international security.

In a press release of SIPRI it said, the nine nuclear-armed states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Israel—continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals and several deployed new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023.

Of the total global inventory of an estimated 12 121 warheads in January 2024, about 9585 were in military stockpiles for potential use.

An estimated 3904 of those warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft—60 more than in January 2023—and the rest were in central storage. Around 2100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert on ballistic missiles.

Nearly all of these warheads belonged to Russia or the USA, but for the first time China is believed to have some warheads on high operational alert, it reads.

‘While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as cold war-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads,’ said SIPRI Director Dan Smith adding ‘This trend seems likely to continue and probably accelerate in the coming years and is extremely concerning.’

India, Pakistan and North Korea are all pursuing the capability to deploy multiple warheads on ballistic missiles, something Russia, France, the UK, the USA and—more recently—China already have.

This would enable a rapid potential increase in deployed warheads, as well as the possibility for nuclear-armed countries to threaten the destruction of significantly more targets.

Russia and the USA together possess almost 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons. In addition to their military stockpiles, Russia and the USA each hold more than 1200 warheads previously retired from military service, which they are gradually dismantling, it added.

SIPRI’s estimate of the size of China’s nuclear arsenal increased from 410 warheads in January 2023 to 500 in January 2024, and it is expected to keep growing. For the first time, China may also now be deploying a small number of warheads on missiles during peacetime.

‘China is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country,’ said Hans M. Kristensen, Associate Senior Fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme (WMDP) and Director of the Nuclear Information Project (NIP) at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Although the UK is not thought to have increased its nuclear weapon arsenal in 2023, its warhead stockpile is expected to grow in the future as a result of the British government’s announcement in 2021 that it was raising its limit from 225 to 260 warheads. The government also said it would no longer publicly disclose its quantities of nuclear weapons, deployed warheads or deployed missiles.

In 2023 France continued its programmes to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and a new air-launched cruise missile, as well as to refurbish and upgrade existing systems.

India slightly expanded its nuclear arsenal in 2023. Both India and Pakistan continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery system in 2023. While Pakistan remains the main focus of India’s nuclear deterrent, India appears to be placing growing emphasis on longer-range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets throughout China.

North Korea continues to prioritize its military nuclear programme as a central element of its national security strategy.

SIPRI estimates that the country has now assembled around 50 warheads and possesses enough fissile material to reach a total of up to 90 warheads, both significant increases over the estimates for January 2023.

‘Like several other nuclear-armed states, North Korea is putting new emphasis on developing its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons,’ said Matt Korda, Associate Researcher with SIPRI’s WMDP and Senior Research Fellow for the NIP at the FAS.   

Israel—which does not publicly acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons—is also believed to be modernizing its nuclear arsenal and appears to be upgrading its plutonium production reactor site at Dimona.

Nuclear arms control and disarmament diplomacy suffered more major setbacks in 2023, it noted.