China, India, Pakistan increase nuclear weapons
China, India and Pakistan are on mark to expand their nuclear arsenals even as nuclear weapons are on a worldwide decline, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI] reports. Meanwhile, North Korea has the capability to produce nuclear weapons while Iran remains guarded about its nuclear program.
China is the only country among the five legalized nuclear weapon states to expand its nuclear arsenal in 2012.
The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France are the other four designated nuclear weapon states under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. They did not expand their nuclear arsenal, the report notes. China’s expansion was driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan.
China is only the country among the five legalized nuclear weapon states to expand its nuclear arsenal in 2012. The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France are the other four designated nuclear weapon states under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. They did not expand their nuclear arsenal.
“However, a number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states,” said Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfer Program. Holtom wrote the report with Mark Bromley, Pieter Wezeman and Siemon Wezeman.
The U.S. and Russia have cut their nuclear arsenal holdings, contributing to the overall reduction of about 1,730 weapons since last year, the report states.
India and Pakistan are not signatories to the NPT. The rival nations have been increasing their respective nuclear stockpiles and refining their delivery capabilities. Those countries are also among an increasing roster of Asian Pacific nations with growing reliability on nuclear power.
SIPRI, an independent international institute researching conflict, armaments and arms sales, released the “SIPRI Yearbook 2013” on June 3. The report assesses the current state of international security, armaments and disarmament.
“Of the five legally recognized nuclear weapon states, only China appears to be expanding the size of its nuclear arsenal,” according to the report. “In 2012, China conducted a comprehensive series of missile trials consolidating its road-mobile, land-based and submarine-based nuclear deterrent.”
As of January, China has 250 nuclear warheads, up from the 240 it had at the start of 2012, China is being “highly non-transparent” in sharing details of its nuclear weapons, the SIPRI yearbook states.
The April 2013 Chinese white paper on “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” listed the Dong Feng and the Chang Jian cruise missiles as the two nuclear missiles with the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force [PLASAF].
The Dong Feng and its variants have mobile launch ability and is an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] with a range of 11,000 kilometers [6,836 miles] or more. The Chang Jian, unveiled at a 2009 military parade in China, is a short strike missile capable of hitting targets at a range of 1,500 kilometers [932 miles]. While the white paper did not mention it, China apparently has has a submarine launched ballistic missile [SLBM] the Julang-2, which is based on the Dong-Feng-31design.
India and China are also the global top-two importers of conventional arms, weapons, platforms and equipment, according to SIPRI. New Delhi accounted for 12 percent of all global arms transfers between the years 2008-2012. China was the recipient of 6 percent of global arms sales during the same period.
At the start of 2013, eight countries possessed about 4,400 operational nuclear weapons. Nearly 2,000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. The early 2013 inventory listed 17,265 weapons, down from 19,000 listed in early 2012.
“If all nuclear warheads are counted – operational warheads, spares, those in both active and inactive storage, and intact warheads scheduled for dismantlement – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel possess a total of approximately 17,265 nuclear weapons,” the report said.
The report identifies fissile materials that can sustain an explosive fission chain reaction. The list includes first-generation fission weapons to advanced thermonuclear weapons. The most common of these fissile materials are highly enriched uranium [HEU] and plutonium.
“For their nuclear weapons, China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA have produced both HEU and plutonium; India, Israel and North Korea have produced mainly plutonium; and Pakistan mainly HEU,” the report said.
All states with a civilian nuclear industry have some capability to produce fissile materials. Global stocks for 2012 include, highly enriched uranium – 1, 285 metric tons, separated plutonium military stocks – 224 metric tons and civilian stocks – 64 metric tons.
“Nuclear weapons are still a marker of international status and power,” SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile said.
Reduction caused by U.S., Russian efforts
The SIPRI data was compiled until January and a clear drop in numbers over 2012 is credited to efforts of the U.S. and Russia.
Of the five nuclear weapons states, the U.S. and Russia has the biggest stockpiles, a legacy of the Cold War, but now the countries are working to reduce numbers. The nuclear arsenals of the other three legally recognized nuclear weapon states – the U.K., France and China – are considerably smaller; hence the effort of the “big-two” has led to an overall reduction.
“Russia and the USA continue to reduce their nuclear forces through the implementation of New START and through unilateral force reductions,” observed the SIPRI report while giving credit for the significant reduction in numbers. The New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] is a 2010 agreement between the [United States] and Russia that lists “Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.”
SIPRI warns that “the availability of reliable information about the nuclear weapon states’ arsenals varies considerably” and reports that France, the U.K. and the U.S. have recently disclosed important information about their nuclear capabilities but other countries are not so forthcoming.
Transparency in Russia, however, has decreased as a result of its decision not to publicly release detailed data about its strategic nuclear forces under the 2010 Russian-U.S. New START treaty, even though it shares the information with the U.S., the report said.
Reliable information on the operational status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of India, Pakistan and Israel is difficult to find. The report states that in the absence of official declarations, the available information is often contradictory, incorrect or exaggerated. “Israel neither officially confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons,” the report says.
Hints on China’s aspirations released
China’s recent white paper explains the role of the PLASAF and says its capabilities are being ramped up. The PLASAF is a core force for China’s strategic deterrence and includes nuclear and conventional missile forces and operational support units primarily responsible for deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China and for carrying out nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles.
“The PLASAF capabilities of strategic deterrence, nuclear counterattack and conventional precision strike are being steadily elevated […] improving its force structure of having both nuclear and conventional missiles, strengthening its rapid reaction, effective penetration, precision strike, damage infliction, protection and survivability capabilities,” the white paper said.
Asian neighbors increase nuclear arsenal
“India and Pakistan are increasing the size and sophistication of their nuclear arsenals. Both countries are developing and deploying new types of nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missile and both are increasing their military fissile material production capabilities,” the SIPRI report warns.
India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the principle of a minimum credible deterrent and no-first-use of nuclear weapons.
The SIPRI cited a meeting in June 2012 of India’s Nuclear Command Authority and said, “It stressed the need for the ‘faster consolidation’ of India’s nuclear deterrence posture based on an operational triad of nuclear forces.”
Pakistan conducted a series of missile trials testing most of its nuclear-capable missile types that are in operational service or still under development. Pakistan also is expanding its main plutonium-production complex at Khushab, Punjab.
North Korea ‘military first’ policy key to nuclear program
North Korea is flagged as a concern by SIPRI “Developments in North Korea’s 2012 nuclear and ballistic missile programs suggested that the new leadership under Kim Jong-un would prioritize the country’s ‘military first’ policy underpinned by advances in its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities,” the report stated.
The Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of North Korea remained suspended in 2012, while the country reaffirmed its status as a nuclear weapon-possessing state.
North Korea drew increased United Nations Security Council sanctions in March following its underground testing of a nuclear device on Feb. 12.