NEW DELHI: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2023 released on Monday says China’s nuclear arsenal increased in the last year and it could potentially have at least as many intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as either the US or Russia by the turn of the decade.
It notes that the nuclear-armed states are increasing the number of operational nuclear weapons.
The SIPRI’s estimate of the size of China’s nuclear arsenal is that it "increased from 350 warheads in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023, and it is expected to keep growing" and might increase subsequently.
"Depending on how it decides to structure its forces, China could potentially have at least as many ICBMs as either the USA or Russia has by the turn of the decade. China has started a significant expansion of its nuclear arsenal," says Hans M. Kristensen, an associate senior fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme and Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
“It is increasingly difficult to square this trend with China’s declared aim of having only the minimum nuclear forces needed to maintain its national security.”
India and Pakistan appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, and both countries introduced and continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery systems in 2022.
“While Pakistan remains the main focus of India’s nuclear deterrent, India appears to be placing growing emphasis on longer-range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets across China.”, said the report.
As per SIPRI, there are nine nuclear-armed states -- the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Israel -- continue to modernise their arsenal and several deployed new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2022.
Israel, which does not publicly acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, is also believed to be modernizing its nuclear arsenal, says SIPRI.