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Nuclear Powers Cut Weapons Numbers But Increase Modernization, Study Says

  • RFE/RL

A Shaheen 1A nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface ballistic missile is launched from an undisclosed location in Pakistan in December 2015.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world is continuing to decline, but countries possessing such arsenals are modernizing their stockpiles and are not likely to give them up for the foreseeable future, a new study says.

The ​Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on July 3 said nine countries possessed about 4,150 operationally deployed nuclear weapons.

If all nuclear weapons were counted, the figure comes to 14,935, down from 15,395 a year earlier, it said.

It listed the countries with nuclear weapons as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.

At the top of the list is Russia, with 1,950 deployed warheads and 5,050 other warheads. At the bottom was North Korea, which SIPRI listed as having 10-20 other warheads.

The United States has 1,800 deployed warheads and 5,000 other warheads.

The other countries were listed with total warheads of below 300 each.

The report said that "deployed warheads" refers to those placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.

"Other warheads" are those held in reserve or out of service and awaiting dismantlement.

"The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world is due mainly to Russia and the USA -- which together still account for nearly 93 percent of all nuclear weapons -- further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons," the report said.

It said, though, that both countries had "expensive nuclear modernization programs under way."

For example, it said, the United States "plans to spend $400 billion in 2017-26 on maintaining and comprehensively updating its nuclear forces."

"Despite the recent progress in international talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, long-term modernization programs are under way in all nine states," SIPRI senior researcher Shannon Kile said.

"This suggests that none of these states will be prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future," he added.

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