‘Decline in nuclear arms’ number, but arsenals’ modernising growing’: SIPRI

Stockholm: There was a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to start of 2018, but at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries were modernising these arms.

China, India and Pakistan are also increasing size of their arsenals, according to a report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).published on Monday.

Overall number of nuclear warheads in world has declined in past year but nations were modernising their arsenals, report said.

At start of 2019, United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates new report.

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

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

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

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

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

The number of nuclear arms has been drastically reduced since a peak in mid-1980s when there were some 70,000 nuclear warheads in world.

There is also a more general trend towards an “increased salience” of nuclear weapons, where changing strategic doctrines, particularly in US are giving nuclear weapons an expanded role in both military operations and national security dialogue, Kile said.

Former United Nations Chief, Ban Ki-moon recently urged nuclear powers to “get serious” about disarmament and warned there was a “very real risk” that decades of work on international arms control could collapse following US pullout of Iran nuclear deal, which he said sent wrong signal to North Korea.

Global disarmament efforts also suffered a blow when United States announced in February it would withdraw from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompting Russia to say it would also suspend its participation.

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