At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to a new report by the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018 but all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernizing (upgrading) these arms - and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals, the SIPRI report added.
North Korea has an estimated 20 to 30 nuclear warheads, which SIPRI said was a priority for the country's national-security strategy. However, it noted that North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or long-range ballistic missile since it entered into denuclearization talks with the United States in 2018.
France has 300 nuclear warheads, China 290, the UK 200 and Israel 80 to 90.
To date, the United States is the only country to have the ignominy of
resorting to the use of nuclear weapons when it dropped two atomic bombs on the
Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) in
the final days of World War II.
Within the first four months of the bombings, the radiation had already killed 90,000 - 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 - 80,000 in Nagasaki; nearly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day of the bombings.
Israeli nuclear arsenal
In total, the SIPRI report estimated that Israel possesses between 80 and 90 nuclear weapons, an increase over previous years.
The SIPRI report described Israel's nuclear arsenal as follows: 30 gravity bombs capable of delivering nuclear weapons by fighter jets; an additional 50 warheads that can be delivered by land-based ballistic missiles; and an unknown number of nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missiles that would grant Israel a sea-based second-strike capability.
During a speech last August in front of the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev Desert, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to use nuclear weapons to "wipe out" Israel's enemies. More recently, Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, despite the fact that intelligence agencies of both the U.S. and Israel have long recognized that Iran has no such program.
India and Pakistan
Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, which have 130 to 140 and 150 to 160 nuclear warheads respectively, are increasing the size of their arsenals while also developing new systems.
"India and Pakistan are expanding their military fissile-material production capabilities on a scale that may lead to significant increases in the size of their nuclear weapon inventories over the next decade," said Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Program.
It may be recalled, the Congressional Research Service's May 15 2009 report to US lawmaker said that Pakistan's nuclear-energy program dates back to the 1950s "but it was the loss of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in a bloody war with India that probably triggered a political decision in January 1972 (just one month later) to begin a secret nuclear-weapons program.
"The origins of the Pakistani nuclear program
lies in the deep national humiliation of the 1971 war with India that led to
the partition of the country, the independence
of Bangladesh and the destruction of the dream of a
On the other hand, White House insider Bruce Riedel, who co-authored the Obama administration's Af-Pak policy, offered the following sequence in a op-ed, broadly concurring with the CRS report:
"The new prime minister of those times, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, secretly convened the country's top 50 scientists in January 1972 and challenged them to build a bomb. He famously said that Pakistanis would sacrifice everything and 'eat grass' to get a nuclear deterrent. The 1974 Indian nuclear test helped Pakistan to tell the world that this is the cause of their nuclear bomb. Starting in 1972, Pakistan came up with its own nuclear bomb in 1998 with the slight help of China, just a few days after India's second nuclear test."