China's nuclear stockpile is growing faster than any other nation, says new security report


June 17 (UPI) -- China's nuclear arsenal increased by nearly 100 warheads over the last year, according to a new report published Monday that warned it expects Beijing's stockpile to keep growing at a faster rate than any other nation.

Beijing's nuclear arsenal increased from 410 warheads to 500 over 2023, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Monday in its annual report on international security.

The institute added that while China's stockpile is expected to keep growing it may also be deploying a small number of warheads on missiles during peacetime.

China is modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal, and the report warned that though it will have a smaller stockpile of nuclear warheads than Russia or the United States by the end of the decade, it could possibly have as may intercontinental ballistic missiles as them by then.

"China is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country," Hans Kristensen, associate senior fellow with SIPRI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, said in a statement. "But in nearly all of the nuclear-armed states there are either plans or a significant push to increase nuclear forces."

The report was published amid growing tensions in much of the world. Relations have continued fray between the West and China, and Russia's war in Ukraine as well as Israel's against Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza have raised worries about growing conflicts and about present conflicts turning nuclear.

According to the institute of the world's estimated 12,121 warheads, more than 9,500 were in military stockpiles for potential use with an estimated 3,904 having been deployed as of January 2024, representing an increase in 60 from a year earlier.

It continued that some 2,100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert and while nearly all belonged to either Russia or the United States -- which account for 90% of all nuclear weapons -- China is believed to have a few of them.

Overall, the number of nuclear warheads continues to decline, but that is attributed to the United States and Russia dismantling older warheads while overall numbers are seeming to rise, it said.

"While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as Cold War-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads," SIPRI Director Dan Smith said in a statement.

"This trend seems likely to continue and probably accelerate in the coming years and is extremely concerning."

Along with the United States, Russia and China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel have nuclear weapons.