Nuclear Weapons: The Next 60 Years — Part II

July 13th, 2004 - by admin

John Hallam / Abolition 2000 – 2004-07-13 09:45:56


This brings us to the ‘unofficial’ nuclear powers, India, Pakistan, Israel, and the DPRK.


Of these, Israel, with between 200 and 400 warheads (depending whose estimates you read), is easily the most dangerous. Israel has never officially admitted its nuclear status, and has been protected by the US in that status, in striking contrast to the incredible pressure applied to the DPRK over its entirely real but tiny arsenal, and of course, the completely nonexistent Iraqi warheads. The lack of US tension over Indian and Pakistani arsenals in spite of those countries having actually been on the brink of nuclear war in 2002 is also remarkable.

Israel’s warheads are derived from fissile material from the Dimona reactor in the Negev, and what we know about Dimona comes largely from Mordechai Vanunu, now released from jail.

Israel’s delivery system is the Jericho missile, with a range between 500 and 1500Km. Israel is said to be fitting at least one submarine with a nuclear delivery system.

Israel is said to have prepared to use its nuclear weapons against other states during the Yom Kippur war of 1967. The utility of Israel’s nuclear deterrent against suicide bombers has yet to be demonstrated.

Israel’s policy has been one of ‘strategic ambiguity’, in which it has been protected by the USA on a ‘don’t ask – don’t tell’ basis, though the existence of the Israeli nuclear deterrent has been an open secret for decades. A parliamentary debate on Israel’s nuclear deterrent was forced by Arab deputies.


India first obtained plutonium from the unsafeguarded CIRUS reactor at BARC, and used it in the ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ at Pokhran in 1974. India was slow to weaponise its undoubted capability partly out of deliberate policy. Since the Pokhran-II tests of May 1998, estimates of the number of Indian warheads have varied between 70 and 150, with some recent estimates as low as 40 warheads, which could be fewer than Pakistan.

India’s delivery systems include Su-29 and Mirage aircraft, and the Agni missile. While Indias longest-range missiles seem to have greater range than anything Pakistan has, Pakistan does seem to be better endowed with short-medium range, truck-mounted missiles, with Soviet/DPRK style transporter/erector/launch tubes.(TEL)

In March 2002, India announced plans for the integration of the 2000Km range nuclear- capable Agni-II missile into its armed forces. A 700Km-range version of Agni was tested in the middle of the 2002 crisis (January 2002).

More recently, India has tested its shorter-range Prithvi missile, and plans are being made to test an Agni-III missile.

India, like Pakistan, is in the process of installing more and more automated and sophisticated C3I systems for nuclear command and control. There has been talk in the Indian media of the construction of bunkers under South Block in Delhi. However, unless these bunkers are literally hundreds of metres deep they will be of no use whatsoever.

The paradox is that with missile travel times between Delhi and Pakistani launch points in the order of minutes, Indian (and Pakistani) commanders will not have half an hour, as Colonel Petrov did, to decide whether a blip on a radar screen is an incoming missile, a technical glitch, a flock of birds, or a meteor, before deciding whether or not to release a sub-continental apocalypse that could kill up to 150 million.

India in January 2003 set up a nuclear command and control structure to be known as the ‘Nuclear Command Authority’. While the authority is headed by the Prime Minister, it seems that there are arrangements for ‘alternate chains of command’, should the Prime Minister have been incinerated.

In 1999, during the intense fighting that erupted over the occupation by Pakistani forces of territory near the Ladakhi town of Kargil, India is said to have placed its nuclear forces into a heightened state of readiness.

In December 2001, India and Pakistan moved their Ghauri and Prithvi nuclear missiles close to the line of control, over which they were conducting intense, world war-II style artillery duels. India moved the short-range, nuclear-capable Prithvi missile to locations close to the border, bringing major Pakistani cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Faisalabad within striking range.

The following month, it was reported that Prime Minister Vajpayee had granted authorization for the armed forces to use the missile at their discretion.

Both Musharraf and Vajpayee, months later, admitted that the two countries had come much too close to a nuclear exchange for comfort.

Nuclear Brinksmanship
Nuclear brinkmanship has characterised both India and Pakistan, with BJP president Jana Krishnamoorthy in 2002 warning Pakistan that if it used nuclear weapons it would be ‘wiped from off the map’. Prime Minister Vajpayee warned that ‘no weapon would be spared in self-defence. Whatever weapon was available, it would be used no matter how it wounded the enemy ‘.

Indian Army Chief General Sundararajan Padmanabhan claimed that if Islamabad dared use its nuclear weapons: ‘The perpetrator of that particular outrage, shall be punished so severely that the continuation of any form of fray will be doubtful’, and expressed his readiness ‘for a second strike ‘ since he felt that India had ‘enough ‘ nuclear arms.


The proliferative activities of Mr A.Q, Khan and in all probability the Pakistani government itself, need no comment here save that:

• uranium enrichment technology, most probably from URENCO, has been vital to the Pakistani effort.

• also vital have been one or more Chinese, uranium-based, nuclear weapons designs. Some of these designs have been passed on to others such as Libya and possibly Saudi Arabia, either directly for large sums of money or simply because both Libya and Saudi Arabia have bankrolled the Pakistani effort to a high degree. Pakistan has also used Chinese missiles, and reverse-engineered those missiles.

• also vital to the Pakistani delivery system has been the DPRK’s Nodong and Taepo-Dong missile, with the Ghauri, the main nuclear delivery system, being a clone of the Nodong. The fact that the Pakistanis have been able to fit uranium-based warheads originally of Chinese design on to the Nodong and that a close relationship clearly existed for some time between the DPRK and Pakistan with AQ Khan making some 16 trips to Pyongyang, means that claims that Pyongyang lacks a delivery system or has not been able to fit warheads onto missiles lack credibility — especially in the light of Pyongyang’s previous claims that it has had an enriched uranium program, and Pakistani claims that a technology swap did in fact take place. Missile components were transported from Pyongyang by US-Supplied C-130 aircraft as late as 2002.

The latest model of the Ghauri, (Based on the Nodong) was officially inducted into Pakistani armed forces in January2003, and the 750Km range Shaheen in March 2003, though in reality both were integrated into the armed forces well before this. On Saturday 29May2004, Pakistan tested a GhauriV missile of around 1500Km range. (Again, this is in effect a test of a DPRK missile.)

Another Ghauri test was conducted in the presence of Colonel Musharraf on July4 2004, accompanied by statements that India should not think that these two tests so soon after each other were for anything other than the most arcane technical reasons.

Indias government immediately responded by saying that this ensured a continued nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

Estimates of Pakistani warhead numbers vary from 24-48 (NRDC) to 35-70. Pakistan as previously noted, seems to be better endowed with multi-wheel TEL vehicles, able to easily transport missiles to the line of control.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the 1999 Kargil confrontation, was taken aback when informed by President Clinton that his armed forces (unbeknownst to him??) had readied Pakistan’s nuclear forces for attack, and ordered a retreat. In 2002, both sides expressed their readiness for nuclear conflict, but thankfully later climbed down.


North Korea/DPRK was said by the CIA to have just 1-2 warheads, but this was always unrealistically low. More recent media reports have suggested that even the CIA estimate has now been raised to around 8 warheads. The CIA estimate applies only to the DPRK’s plutonium based effort, and not to any uranium-based program, and does not take into account the 8000 fuel rods recently reprocessed from Yongbyon, which would give at least another 4-6 warheads. Lee Wha Rhang, writing about 1997, estimated about 10-12 Pu-based warheads, based on additional quantities reprocessed from Yongbyon, and plutonium obtained from Russia.

I have tentatively suggested elsewhere that the DPRK may possibly have 6-12 warheads of both Pu and uranium design, mounted on Nodong and Taepo-Dong missiles.

The DPRK’s current denials of its uranium-based program contradict its earlier affirmation that it had such a program, while the DPRK uranium-based program fits into the broader picture of a Pak/DPRK technology swap.

The Nodong missile has ample range to strike Seoul (which requires only artillery to strike it), Tokyo, and Beijing. The Taepo-Dong-II has a theoretical but untested range sufficient to strike well beyond the US west coast. While a wobbly Taepo-Dong might not be the most accurate or reliable delivery system, even the 50% possibility that the DPRK may have the capability to turn downtown LA or San Francisco into a ‘sea of fire’ must be taken entirely seriously. To dismiss it as bluff as certain members of the Bush administration are wont to do and then to follow up with Pentagon memos on military options and/or regime change is frankly, insanely foolish.

Even thinking loudly about such options- and the Bush administration has a way of thinking very loudly – places west coast US cities as well as Tokyo in extreme danger and positively ensures that the goal of the nuclear free Korean Peninsula recedes further and further.

The most recent series of talks between the US, China, Russia, Japan, the RoK and the DPRK ended in stalemate as the DPRK refused to give up its nuclear program unless the US would change its ‘hostile policy’. DPRK talks with the RoK, still more recently, have been more successful.


All the above is a direct threat to the NPT regime. The next NPT review conference will be in 2005. The Prepcom took place over April26-May7 (see below), and broke up in disarray.

The other issue that directly affects the NPT Prepcom, and to which our attention has been drawn by Mr Mohamed El Baradei is of course, the refusal of the nuclear weapons powers – not only the US and Russia, but with a bit more subtlety, France, the UK, and China – to realistically and credibly address their article VI NPT obligations to achieve the total and unequivocal elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

The current Bush administration is the first in US history to refuse to admit that the NPT says what it says and commits the US to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. The Bush administration has continued to do this at the NPT Prepcom itself, refusing to admit that the NPT commits it to the total and unequivocal elimination of its nuclear arsenal.

According to El Baradei, speaking a month or so before the Prepcom: “We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security – and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use.”

We wish the Bush administration would listen to Mr El Baradei, who in the same interview warned that nuclear weapons continue to endanger civilisation.


From 26 April to 7 May 2004, NPT signatories met in what was officially the third of a series of preparatory meetings for the main NPT Review Meeting in 2005. As we now know, the prepcom, as it was called, ended up breaking up in disorder, as delegates deadlocked over how to achieve the objectives of the nonproliferation treaty, and even over what those objectives in fact were.

The nuclear nonproliferation treaty contains a series of bargains. The core ‘deal’ in the NPT is in Article VI, according to which the established nuclear weapons powers agree to eliminate their nuclear arsenals completely, in return for which other countries that might otherwise proceed to the acquisition of nuclear weapons agree not to acquire them.

The Nagging Question: When Will the Nuclear States Obey the Law?
Given that the NPT was signed in 1968 and came into force around 1970, complete with its commitment on the part of the nuclear weapons states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, and given that the International Court of Justice in 1996 declared unanimously that the NPT commits the nuclear weapon states to the elimination of their nuclear arsenals, the question that is asked at every NPT review meeting is the same: When will the NWS live up to their part of the NPT bargain?

At the last NPT Review Conference, in 2000, the final declaration of that conference again committed the NWS to the ‘total and unequivocal elimination’ of their nuclear arsenals, and to a plan, known as the ’13 steps’ by which that was to be achieved.

At this most recent NPT Prepcom, what caused the breakup of the Prepcom was the refusal of the US administration to even admit that the decisions that had been taken at the Year 2000 review conference had even been taken.

The US Bans Debate; Not the Bomb
The US refused to allow any reference whatsoever to be made to either the final declaration of the Year 2000 review conference, or to the 13 steps. Other nations and groups of nations such as the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and the New Agenda Coalition prepared plans that referenced the Year 2000 review conference and the 13 steps and included items such as universalising and bringing into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and taking strategic nuclear forces of Launch on Warning status. The US refused to sign on to anything that included these elements.

A detailed ‘chairman’s summary’ was produced that if implemented would have done much to help rid the world of nuclear weapons and thus ensure the survival of civilisation and the human and other species. It lacks status and clout. Though its recommendations are eminently moderate and sensible, they are unlikely to be implemented.

WHERE TO FROM HERE? Looking backwards looking forwards

The proliferative potential of the current situation is extreme – and just how extreme, and the extent to which proliferation dangers now come bearing out of left- field – is illustrated by recent reports that Nigeria (!!!) is doing deals with Pakistan and the DPRK for an unspecified nuclear capability.

The AQ Khan/Pak government proliferation machine, with the spread of nuclear technology built into its very growth plan, raised the prospect of Libyan nuclear weapons. This prospect seems now to have receded. Last year, reports surfaced that the Saudi government had considered acquiring a packaged, ‘turnkey’, nuclear deterrent from Pakistan.

This would likely have come not as a nuclear weapons production capability, but as a number of TEL trucks with missiles and warheads. The possibility that nations might sell a complete warhead/missile package has emanated also from the DPRK. However, I believe that Bush administration claims that the DPRK would sell to terrorists are unlikely to be true.

Live proliferation concerns remain, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and now, out of left field as it were, Nigeria. The worry with Nigeria coming from left field is that there may be other nations who are also not currently on the proliferation map. Who else will appear as it were, out of nowhere?

The entirely predictable failure of the current round of talks with the DPRK also raises the prospect of proliferation in northeast Asia. If the DPRK maintains and augments a real, credible, nuclear and delivery capability as I believe it will, then there is the prospect that there may be the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the RoK, Taiwan, and Japan.

The acquisition of nuclear weapons by a further three nations would probably spell the end for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and would raise the probability of the actual use of nuclear weapons, possibly in the Japan/DPRK confrontation or else in a China/Taiwan confrontation, by orders of magnitude.

Looking at the Past, Looking at the Future

Let’s look a bit at there we have come from and where we might be going.

In 1945, only one nation had warheads, namely the US, and this situation was sustained until 1949, at which time the Soviet Union had just one warhead for the US’s 235 warheads. US predominance continued past 1953, when the US had 1436 warheads, -more than 10 times its competitors – the USSR 120, and the UK tested its first warhead in the Monte Bello islands off the coast of WA

By 1974, the USSR had begun to catch up, having 17,385 warheads as against 28,170 for the US, 325 for the UK, 145 for France and 170 for China. It was in 1974 that India tested its ‘peaceful nuclear device’ at Pokhran, and the Israelis had had warheads since the early 1960s.

In the year that Colonel Petrov declined to end the world, 1983, the USSR had 35,804 warheads – now well in excess of the US’s 23,154, the UK’s 320, Frances 280, and China’s 280. By now, India was on the way to weaponising its Pokhran device, but moved slowly on this in part as it wished to maintain the façade of being a non nuclear weapons state.

Its as well to realise that in 1983 and in 1986, the peak year for warhead numbers worldwide with 40,723 Soviet warheads, 23,254 US ones, and France, the UK and China unchanged, that – assuming the nuclear winter effect kicks in at 500 warheads used for ‘city busting’ – there was over 120 times the megatonnage needed to create a worldwide ‘nuclear winter’.

The year 1986 may thus, hopefully, be seen as the peak tide of nuclear lunacy.

From that point on, the nuclear weapons totals come slowly down on both Soviet (then Russian) and US, sides.

Bush Vows to Ignore Moscow Treaty on Nuke Weapons
As of 2002, we are down to 10,640 deployed US warheads, 8,600 deployed Russian ones (but many more on both sides in various forms of stockpiling), and due to go down to 2750 deployed (Russia) and 2440 deployed (US), for at least a few minutes at midnight Dec 31, 2012.

As we’ve already seen, however, the devil is in the details. The US has recently said clearly that it will NOT be going down to the Moscow Treaty mandated levels, and both Russia and the US continue to refine plans for the actual use of nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile the refusal of these two powers to take seriously their article VI obligations is slowly but surely, in spite of Bush administration rhetoric, ensuring that other nations, starting with the DPRK, will grow their own modest nuclear deterrents.

Where will we be in 60 years?

That depends on whether the established nuclear powers are able to or are able to be pushed and shamed by others into, keeping the promise they made under article VI of the NPT, reaffirmed in 2000, to achieve the ‘total and unequivocal elimination’ of their nuclear arsenals.

If over the next 60 years we do not do that the probability that nuclear weapons will be used will be very high. If their ‘use’ by accident, madness or malevolence includes the use of major parts of the US or Russian strategic arsenal, or if the Chinese nuclear arsenal grows to challenge that of the US and is used, or if the Indian or Pakistani arsenals grow significantly and are used, then casualties ranging up into the billions and major long term damage to the living systems of the planet could still result.

Assuming that the NWS do not fulfil their part of the NPT bargain, that treaty can be expected to fall apart and some countries – the most likely being the RoK, Japan, Taiwan, Iran, and then possibly Saudi Arabia, and maybe Nigeria – will obtain weapons. The DPRK may be expected to enlarge its deterrent and if enough things go wrong there could possibly be a DPRK/US nuclear exchange. India and Pakistan can also be expected to continue to enlarge their nuclear arsenals and a nuclear exchange between those two at some time, possibly by accident is entirely possible.

A well-known activist was once asked, at a time when it looked as if we might actually get rid of nuclear weapons ‘How does it feel to be making history?’

His famous reply was ‘I’m not making history. I am making history possible.’

So the question is: Will history be possible for the next 60 years? The answer is completely uncertain. But what will make the difference is your action and my action, to eliminate nuclear weapons.

John Hallam is the Nuclear Weapons Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Australia [1 Henry St Turella NSW Australia 2205,ph 61-2-9567-7644, 7533, fax 9567-7166].

Posted in accordance with USCode Title 17 for noncommercial educational purposes./i>