The world's nuclear stockpile is expected to grow for the first time since the end of the Cold War, according to a report released Monday. File Photo by U.S. Missile Defense Agency/UPI | License Photo
June 13 (UPI) -- The world's nuclear stockpile is expected to grow for the first time since the end of the Cold War amid growing tensions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to Swedish researchers.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which released its 2022 yearbook Monday, said nuclear warheads in the nine nuclear-armed states -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea -- are expected to increase over the next decade.
"All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies," said Wilfred Wan, director of SIPRI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program. "This is a very worrying trend."
The United States and Russia hold 90% of the world's nuclear arsenal. Russia has a total of 5,977 warheads, while the U.S. has 5,427 as China continues to expand with more than 300 new missile silos, according to the report. The Pentagon predicts China's stockpile to "at least double in size" over the next decade.
SIPRI estimates North Korea's nuclear stockpile holds 20 warheads, but said the country's secrecy makes it hard to gauge its nuclear capabilities. The think tank believes North Korea now has enough fissile material to produce up to 55 warheads.
"There is no publicly available evidence that North Korea has produced an operational nuclear warhead for delivery by an intercontinental range ballistic missile, but it might have a small number of warheads for medium-range ballistic missiles," SIPRI said.
In 2021, the United Nation's five permanent members of the security council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- stated "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." However, the SIPRI report showed all five countries continue to expand or upgrade their nuclear arsenals, including Britain, which reversed decades of disarmament last year to increase its nuclear stockpile ceiling.
While the global number of nuclear warheads fell from 13,080 to 12,705 between 2021 and 2022, former Swedish prime minister and SIPRI board member Stefan Lofven warned close to half are kept in a state of readiness or high readiness.
"Relations between the world's great powers have deteriorated further at a time when humanity and the planet face an array of profound and pressing common challenges that can only be addressed by international cooperation," he said.