Deterring an Asia nuke race

It should be known that Russia also plays the game of pretending to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, often claiming their latest missiles are classified as anything but long-range. The only country playing honest is the United States, which has a false sense of security and has developed the illusion that total disarmament would be a demonstration of moral strength.

SINGAPORE – How many nuclear weapons and delivery systems does a country need as an effective deterrent against the threats of attack? Finding an acceptable balance is critically important in Asia, where four of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states are located.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported in June that all four Asian nations with nuclear weapons — China, India, Pakistan and North Korea — appeared to be expanding their arsenals while the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Israel were either reducing them or holding the number static.

Asia may be sliding into a nuclear arms race, aggravated by underlying tensions and mistrust. As one nuclear weapons state enlarges its arsenal, other regional atomic powers do the same. SIPRI estimated that China, India and Pakistan had each added about 10 warheads to their operational stockpiles in 2012.

Meanwhile, as the SIPRI report noted, each is improving delivery systems: the ballistic or cruise missiles or bomber aircraft that could carry nuclear warheads.

The last bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by Moscow and Washington in 2010, requires each nation by 2018 to cap its stockpile of fielded nuclear warheads at 1,550. So under Obama’s proposal, a new ceiling could become approximately 1,000 deployed strategic warheads apiece.

Under the current START pact, the two former Cold War adversaries also agreed to limit fielded nuclear delivery vehicles, including bombers and missiles based on land and at sea, to 700, with an additional 100 allowed in reserve.

But the START deal does not cover all nuclear warheads or delivery systems, only those classed as long range. Nor does it encompass all nuclear armed states, although at least 90 per cent of atomic arms belong to the U.S. and Russia.

One of the concerns of U.S. critics of Obama’s latest proposals is that China could use any extended new round of START negotiations that involve only America and Russia to enlarge and modernize its own nuclear arsenal in secret. Some U.S. analysts say that this is already happening.

The critics argue that if the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals keep dropping, China might be able to achieve numerical parity, or near-parity, quite quickly with the today’s two dominant nuclear powers.

Nonnuclear Asian states, such as South Korea and Japan, look to their ally, the U.S., to protect them from nuclear attack under Washington’s extended deterrence policy. If U.S. nuclear strength and resolve appears to be weakening, they might become so alarmed at the heightened nuclear threats they face, whether from North Korea or China, that they would make their own dash for atomic arms.

Full article: Deterring an Asia nuke race (The Japan Times)

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