Thanks to the recent talks in Singapore, there have been a lot of comparisons made to the Reagan/Gorbachev summits of the 1980’s in the news. China analysts have been discussing the potential of a much quieter “arms race” that may be going on in the IndoPacific as China and other regional actor push ahead with modernizing their nuclear weapon delivery systems.
According to a report released Monday by independent think tank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the PRC is also adding to its overall arsenal as it boosts military expenditure. SIPRI was founded in Sweden in 1966 to carry out research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
As of January, China had 280 warheads, up from 270 in 2017, the SIPRI said in its annual report. The report goes on the clarify that none of those nuclear warheads were deployed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces. They were instead classified as “other warheads” — meaning they are being stored or have been retired.
Where the United States is the largest spender on its military, China comes in second on the list –spending $228 billion in 2017. There is still a significant gap between the U.S. and China in this regard, as the U.S. number was $610 billion in 2017. China has still been steadily increasing its defense budget for decades. The SIPRI report points out that India and Pakistan are also expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles and accelerating development of new missile delivery systems — each adding some 10 warheads as of the first quarter of 2018. As with China, none of those warheads are currently deployed on missiles.
Other nuclear-armed states either reduced the total number of warheads or did not add to their arsenals.
The U.S. decreased its nuclear warheads to 6,480 as of January from 6,800 a year earlier, while Russia went from 7,000 to 6,850 this year, the report said, with no change from last year for the U.K. at 215 warheads, France at 300, Israel at 80, and North Korea with 10 to 20. Although they reduced their arsenals, the U.S. and Russia accounted for nearly 92% of all nuclear weapons in the world.
The report noted that,
Despite making limited reductions to their nuclear forces, both Russia and the USA have long-term programs under way to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities.”
Talk of nuclear deterrence had stemmed significantly in the years since the Cold War came to an end, but there seems to be a resurgence of the topic which is causing concern for some analysts. Jan Eliasson, chairman of the SIPRI Governing Board, said:
The renewed focus on the strategic importance of nuclear deterrence and capacity is a very worrying trend. The world needs a clear commitment from the nuclear weapon states to an effective, legally binding process towards nuclear disarmament.”
Nine countries — the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — now have some 14,465 nuclear weapons between them, down from a total of 14,935 last year.
Featured Image: A mock North Korea’s Scud-B missile, center, and other South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. The leaders of South Korea, the United States and China issued stark warnings Tuesday about the threat of nuclear terrorism during the final day of a nuclear summit that has so far been upstaged by North Korea’s long-range rocket launch plans.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)