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From: Ambassador Tkachenko

Are Nuclear-Weapon States not Parties to the Non-proliferation Treaty Ready to Renounce to the Possession of Nuclear Weapons?


The situation of nuclear-weapon states not parties to the NPT is different from the situation of the nuclear-weapon states parties to that treaty. This last group of countries has signed and ratified a treaty that encourage them to begin negotiations in good faith for the discussion of concrete measures that lead them to nuclear disarmament, while the first group of states have made no commitment to do that. In other words, nuclear-weapon states not parties to the NPT have made no commitment to nuclear disarmament and are not obliged to report anything related to the possession of nuclear weapons to the any specific body or organ or to the international community. Taking into account the position of nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT regarding the possession of nuclear weapons, there is no possibility to convince nuclear-weapon states not parties to this treaty to renounce to the possession of this type of weapons under the present circumstances.


Nuclear weapons NPT Israel India Pakistan DPRK Nuclear disarmament Nuclear non-proliferation 


There are four states possessing nuclear weapons that are not parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). These states are the Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK), India, Israel, and Pakistan. Israel has never recognised the possession of nuclear weapons, but the international community believes that the country has at least 80 warheads. However, the exact number of nuclear weapons in each country’s possession is a closely held national secret. Despite this limitation, public available information, careful analysis of historical records, and occasional leaks make it possible to make best estimates about the size and composition of the national nuclear weapon stockpiles of these four countries (see Table 1).

Table 1

Nuclear weapons in the possession of nuclear-weapon states not parties to the NPT


Deployed strategic

Deployed non-strategic

Reserve/ No deployed

Military stockpile

Total inventory



















North Korea












Source: Federation of American Scientist

* All numbers are approximate estimates and further described in the Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2015), and the nuclear appendix in the SIPRI Yearbook. See also status and 10-year projection of U.S. and Russian forces. Additional reports are published on the FAS Strategic Security Blog. Unlike those publications, this table is updated continuously as new information becomes available. Current update: April 28, 2015

N.a No applicable

a Although Israel has produced enough plutonium for 100–200 warheads, the number of delivery platforms and estimates made by the U.S. intelligence community suggest that the stockpile might include approximately 80 warheads. Detailed 2014 overview of Israeli forces is here

b None of Pakistan’s warheads are thought to be deployed, but kept in central storage, most in the southern parts of the country. More warheads are in production. Detailed overview here

c Indian nuclear warheads are not deployed, but kept in central storage. More warheads are in production. Detailed overview of Indian forces is here

d Despite three North Korean nuclear tests, there is no public available evidence that North Korea has miniaturised and operationalised its nuclear weapons capability. A 2013 world survey by the US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) does not credit any of North Korea’s ballistic missiles with any nuclear capability

The situation of these states is different from the situation of the nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT. This last group of countries has signed and ratified a treaty that encourage them to begin negotiations in good faith for the discussion of concrete measures that lead them to nuclear disarmament, while the first group of states have made no commitment to do that. In other words, nuclear-weapon states not parties to the NPT have made no commitment to nuclear disarmament and are not obliged to report anything related to the possession of nuclear weapons to the any specific body or organ or to the international community (US Department of State,

Taking into account the position of nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT regarding the possession of nuclear weapons, there is no real possibility to convince nuclear-weapon states not parties to this treaty to renounce to the possession of this type of weapons in the coming years. By the contrary, all information coming from these four countries indicates that they have no intention to destroy all of their nuclear weapons unless all other nuclear-weapon states do the same and strong international sanctions are imposed to those countries that resist the application of this measure. In the following paragraphs will discuss this situation at length.


In South Asia, what may be the world’s most threatening nuclear face-off— exacerbated by long-simmering distrust and military competition between Pakistan and India, a continuing border dispute over the Kashmir region, and allegations of Pakistani support for terrorist attacks in India— seems to be spawning a modernisation race involving nuclear weapons. Both India and Pakistan are upgrading their nuclear weapons complexes to produce increased amounts of bomb-grade uranium and plutonium, which would provide both countries with the ability to build new modern and precise nuclear weapons.

Pakistan asserts that the origin of its nuclear weapons program lies in its adversarial relationship with India; the two countries have engaged in several conflicts, centred mainly on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Initial steps toward the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program date to the late 1950s, including the establishment of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in 1956 (PAEC 2011). Former President Z.A. Bhutto forcefully advocated the nuclear option and famously said in 1965 that “if India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own” (Khan 2012). After the December 1971 defeat in the conflict with India, former President Bhutto issued a directive instructing the country’s nuclear establishment to build a nuclear device within 3 years (Perkovich 2008). India’s detonation of a nuclear device in May 1974 further pushed Islamabad to accelerate its nuclear weapons program, although the PAEC had already constituted a group in March of that year to manufacture a nuclear weapon (International Institute for Strategic Studies 2007).

Nuclear Doctrine

The government of Pakistan has yet to formally adopt a nuclear doctrine, so it remains unclear under what conditions Pakistan might use nuclear weapons (Lavoy 2008). In 2002, former President Pervez Musharraf stated that, “nuclear weapons are aimed solely at India,” and would only be used if “the very existence of Pakistan as a state” was at stake. General Khalid Kidwai further elaborated that this could include “Indian conquest of Pakistan’s territory, economic strangling, or domestic destabilisation” (Khan 2012). Because of India’s conventional military superiority, Pakistan maintains the ability to quickly escalate to the use of nuclear weapons in case of a conventional Indian military attack (Narang 2009). This makes the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India a very dangerous situation for the peace in the South Asia region.

Nuclear Forces and its Modernisation

Pakistan’s nuclear forces expansion is notably rapid. Today, the country has an estimated 120 nuclear weapons, an increase from around 90 in 2007. At its current pace, Pakistan could have 200 warheads in its arsenal within a decade. The International Panel on Fissile Materials concluded in 2013 that Pakistan has fissile material sufficient for the production of over 200 nuclear weapons. Islamabad has stockpiled approximately 3.0 ± 1.2 t of highly enriched uranium (HEU), and produces enough HEU for perhaps the production of between 10 and 15 warheads per year. Pakistan currently has a stockpile of 150 ± 50 kg of weapons-grade plutonium, with the ability to produce approximately 12 to 24 kg per year (International Panel on Fissile Materials 2013). Plutonium stocks are expected to continue to increase as Pakistan brings more production reactors online at its Khushab nuclear facility. The Khan Research Laboratories greatly increased its HEU production capacity by employing more efficient P-3 and P-4 gas centrifuges (Hibbs 2007 and Lewis 2007).

Beefing up its tactical nuclear weapons, the country is developing a new medium-range ballistic missile, new air- and ground-launched cruise missiles, and a short-range nuclear missile, the Nasr (officially known as Hatf IX), meaning “vengeance”. The Pakistani military claims that the Nasr, a mobile system with a range of 60 km (37 miles), is highly accurate and able to carry nuclear warheads. It is designed for “shoot-and-scoot” warfare—that is, firing at a target and then immediately moving to avoid enemy counter fire—and apparently is meant for use in the event of an invasion by India’s conventional forces, widely seen as superior to Pakistan’s conventional forces.

An analysis of the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons in South Asia—relying on the outlines of the 1965 India-Pakistan war as a guide to invasion routes—suggests that Pakistan’s detonation of just one 30-kt battlefield weapon would not only affect invading Indian forces, but also cause the loss of at least tens of thousands and probably hundreds of thousands of Pakistani civilian lives, according to Jaganath Sankaran, an associate at the Managing the Atom project at Harvard University’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs. The humanitarian catastrophe of the use of nuclear weapons, even only tactical nuclear weapons in a conflict with India is undoubtedly enormous.

Finally, it is important to highlight the following: Though some states are downsizing their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a build-up. Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponised, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The report entitled “Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age” (Koblentz 2014). has identified South Asia as the region “most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals”. Pakistan, the report said, has deployed or is developing 11 delivery systems for its nuclear warheads, including aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles (see Table 2).

Table 2

Pakistan nuclear forces 2013

Delivery system

Year deployed (First tested)

Range (km)

Payload (kg)







 Mirage V




Ballistic missiles

 Abdali (Hatf-3)




Under development

 Ghaznavi (Hatf-3)




Fewer than 50 Hatf-1, 3, 4, & 9 launchers (combined)

 Shaheen (Hatf-4)




Fewer than 50 Hatf-1, 3, 4, & 9 launchers (combined)

 Ghauri (Hatf-5)




Fewer than 50 launchers

 Shaheen II (Hatf-6)




Unknown number of launchers

 Nasr (Hatf-9)




Fewer than 50 Hatf-1, 3, 4, & 9 launchers (combined)

Cruise missiles

 Babur (Hatf-7)




Under development; ground launched

 Ra’ad (Hatf-8)




Under development; air launched

Sources: SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 2013, pp. 284, 318, 320; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces 2011, “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67, no. 4, July/August 2011, pp. 91–99; National Air and Space Intelligence Center, “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,” 2013

Disarmament Measures

Pakistan is not a signatory to the NPT, and is the sole country blocking the negotiations of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) (Pakistan Blocks Agenda at UN Disarmament Conference 2010). The Pakistan government argues that in the face of India’s increasing conventional capability, it is unreasonable to expect Pakistan to cap is fissile material production. Furthermore, they argue that the FMCT legitimizes India’s fissile material stocks (Khan 2012). At the CD in January 2011, Pakistan reiterated its opposition to the commencement of negotiations towards an FMCT. While declaring its opposition to the FMCT in its current format of the CD in January 2010, Islamabad called for the CD’s agenda to be enlarged to consider aspects of regional conventional arms control and a regime on missile-related issues, while also maintaining its opposition to a treaty that did not cover fissile stocks retroactively (Daily Times and Reuters 2010).

In general, Pakistan’s position on nuclear disarmament is that it will only give up nuclear weapons if India gives up its own nuclear arsenal, and in 2011 the National Command Authority “reiterated Pakistan’s desire to constructively contribute to the realisation of a world free of nuclear weapons” (Daily Times 2009; ISPR 2011). However, given Pakistan’s objective of balancing India’s conventional military and nuclear superiority, Pakistan is unlikely to consent to a denuclearisation agreement (International Panel on Fissile Materials 2010). Pakistan has also consistently refused to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and is one of the countries that is blocking the entry into force of this important component of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. In addition, it is important to highlight that from 2009 to 2010 official Pakistani statements indicated that even if India signed the treaty, the country would not necessarily follow and will ratify it.

Summing up, it can be stated that Pakistan will continue to its position to keep nuclear weapons in their military arsenal during the coming decades, unless India decide to destroy all of their nuclear weapons, something that will not happen, if China continue with the possession and modernisation of their own nuclear weapons. For this reason, Pakistan will not be in favour of supporting any negotiations at multilateral level for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in all nuclear-weapon states, unless other issues are also considered within the framework of these negotiations.


Following India’s humiliating defeat by China in the Indo-Chinese border war of October-November 1962, the first formal demand for the development of nuclear weapons was made in Parliament, by the Jana Singh party, in December 1962. According to Nuclear Weapon Archive, H. J. Bhabha, well aware that a Chinese nuclear test was not far off (his estimate was then 12 to 18 months), also began secretly agitating for a vigorous effort to match China’s nuclear program, going so far as to ask Prime Minister J. Nehru to authorise a nuclear test in Ladakh on the Chinese border.

Prime Minister J. Nehru died on 27 May 1964 and was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri who took office on 2 June. That summer and fall expectations of a Chinese nuclear test steadily increased. Prime Minister Shastri was strongly opposed to pursuing the Indian nuclear option, and H. J. Bhabha began making public statements in favour intended to increase public support and political pressure. On 4 October, H. J. Bhabha repeated his estimate publicly that India could build a bomb within 18 months of the decision to do so.

The much anticipated Chinese test finally came on 16 October 1964. Prime Minister Shastri’s initial reaction was to reiterate his opposition to India following the same path. But on 24 October 1964, H. J. Bhabha made a now famous speech on Indian radio. H. J. Bhabha argued that “atomic weapons give a state possessing them in adequate numbers a deterrent power against attack from a much stronger state”. On 18 May 1974, an underground test explosion of a Hiroshima-sized device was successfully carried out. The world was aware of India’s nuclear capability in 1998 before it conducted the series of test explosions. However, what was surprising was the complexity of the two tests on 11 and 13 May 1998. A total of five devices was tested and included thermonuclear, fission and low yield warheads.

Nuclear Doctrine

The India’s Military Doctrine was promulgated in August 1999, a little over a year after the nuclear test series conducted by India in May 1998. It was believed at this juncture that the nuclear doctrine promulgated was a response to the international criticism being voiced that India had conducted its nuclear tests without any concept of what it wished to achieve with its deterrent.

The main objectives of the India’s Military Doctrine are the following:

  • Protecting the Indian state, from the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by any state or entity, is the raison d’être of India’s nuclear deterrent;

  • The Indian deterrent shall remain credible against all categories of weapons of mass destruction;

  • India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against states that do not possess nuclear weapons, but such states shall be deemed nuclear weapons states if they ally with or assist nuclear-armed states against India, and/or assist them during hostilities (Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies 2012).

India’s nuclear deterrent is a manifestation of its right to self-defence as provided in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. India’s nuclear doctrine derives from the Constitution of India. The executive powers of India are vested in the Prime Minister, who is the designated launch authority. The Prime Minister (and his designated successors) shall exercise command and control over India’s nuclear forces. India shall maintain a credible minimal deterrent, where credibility comprises three specific components – leadership credibility, force credibility, and technological credibility. The Strategic Forces Command shall advise the Prime Minister on the qualitative and quantitative aspects of credible minimal deterrence, which shall have to be determined by him/her from time to time. In adherence to a policy of no first use, India will not initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail and that decisions to authorise the use of nuclear weapons would be made by the Prime Minister or his designated successor(s).

Nuclear Forces and its Modernisation

The Indian nuclear forces are included in Table 3.

Table 3

Indian nuclear forces in 2013

Delivery system

Year deployed (First tested)

Range (km)

Payload (kg)



 Mirage 2000H




Land-based ballistic missiles





Fewer than 75 Prithvi and Agni I launchers (combined)

 Agni I




Fewer than 75 Prithvi and Agni I launchers (combined)

 Agni II




Fewer than 10 launchers

 Agni III




Under development

 Agni IV




Under development

 Agni V




Under development

Ship-launched ballistic missiles





Induction under way, but probably not operational


 INS Arihant




Undergoing sea trials






Under development to be deployed on Arihant





Under development

Sources: SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 2013, pp. 284, 312; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces 2012,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 68, no. 4, July/August 2014, p. 100; National Air and Space Intelligence Center, “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,” 2013; Yogesh Joshi and Frank O’Donnell, “India’s Submarine Deterrent and Asian Nuclear Proliferation,” Washington Quarterly 56, no. 4, August/September 2014, pp. 157–74.

N.a Not applicable

India has the fourth-largest air force in the world. Its fighter-bombers constitute the backbone of India’s operational nuclear strike force, and it likely assigns nuclear missions to Mirage 2000H, Jaguar IS/IB, and possibly MiG-27 aircraft (Kristensen and Norris 2012). The government approved in 2011 an upgrade for the Indian Air Force’s 49 Mirage 2000H aircraft (two aircraft crash in 2012), which is scheduled for completion by mid-2021 (Government of India 2012b). The aircraft are deployed at Maharajpur (Gwalior) Air Force Station with Squadrons 1 and 7 of the 40th Wing; it is estimated that one of the squadrons has a secondary nuclear mission.

India has four operational squadrons of Jaguar IS/IB aircraft with approximately 76 aircraft; two of the squadrons may be assigned a secondary nuclear strike mission. An upgrade of India’s Jaguar fleet is scheduled for completion in December 2017 (Government of India 2012b). it has been reported that, in addition to new engines, the upgrade will also include modernised avionics, night-time sensors, and integrated helmet sights (Defence Now 2011).

The domestically manufactured, Soviet-origin MiG-27 Flogger fleet, sometimes suspected of having a nuclear-strike mission, is also undergoing an upgrade (Government of India 2012b).

In January 2012, the Indian government announced that it planned to buy 126 Rafale fighter-bombers from France, which uses its Rafale jets in a nuclear strike role (George 2012). India intends to take delivery of 18 of the jets in ready to- fly condition and to build the rest through Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., a state-owned company (George 2012). The contract has not yet been finalized, but the cost is estimated at between US$10 and US$15 billion.

India has three types of land-based missiles that may be operational: the short range Prithvi I, the short-range Agni I, and the medium-range Agni II. The Prithvi I has been deployed for almost 15 years, but the Agni I and II, despite being declared operational, both have reliability issues that have delayed their full operational service. India has been busy growing its missile program, with four more Agni versions in progress: An Agni IIp was test-launched in 2010, but failed; the longer-range Agni III, after at least four flights-tests, remains under development; and the Agni IV maybe a technology bridge to the newest type, the long-range Agni V, which had its first test-launch in April. Some of these Agni programs may serve as technology-development platforms for longer-range versions.

The bulk of the Indian ballistic missile force is comprised of three versions of Prithvi missiles, but only one of these versions, the army’s Prithvi I, has a nuclear role. Given its small size (nine meters long and one meter in diameter), the Prithvi I is difficult to spot on satellite images, and therefore little is known about its deployment locations. The Prithvi I is a short-range missile (up to 150 km or 93 miles) and is the mainstay of the Strategic Forces Command, India’s designated nuclear weapon service.

In December 2011, India successfully test-launched its two-stage Agni I missile, which has a range of 700 km (435 miles), for the eighth time suggesting that the missile might finally have become fully operational. But a ninth test-launch scheduled for early May 2012 was postponed due to a technical glitch.

The road- or rail-launched Agni II, an improvement on the Agni I, can fly up to 2000 km (1243 miles) and can carry a 1000 kg payload, and it takes just 15 minutes for the missile to be readied for firing. The missile has been tested-fired eight times with several failures, but more recent test-flights, on May 19, 2010 and September 30, 2011, were successful, demonstrating some progress toward making the Agni II fully operational. A 2010 test-launch of an extended-range Agni II, known as the Agni IIþ, failed.

Still under development is India’s rail-mobile Agni III, a two-stage, solid-fuel missile with a range of more than 3000 km (1864 miles). Several years ago, an army spokesperson remarked: with this missile, India can even strike Shanghai.

The Agni IV’s first flight-test, on November 15, 2011, was a success. According to scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the missile, designed to fly up to 3500 km (2175 miles) and carry up to 1000 kg, has opened a new era for Indian missiles (Subramanian 2011). India test-launched the Agni V for the first time on April 19, 2012 at a range of approximately 5000 km (3107 miles). Although widely referred to as an ICBM, a range of 5000 km does not quite meet the internationally accepted definition of an ICBM. Still, the Indian government stated that the missile had a range of more than 5000 km (Government of India 2012a). The Agni V needs several additional tests-flights, but once it is deployed it will enable the Indian military to hold Beijing at risk for the first time.

India is developing two naval nuclear weapon systems: a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and a ship launched ballistic missile. India’s ballistic missile submarine, the Arihant, has been under development since 1984. Defence Minister A.K. Antony stated in May 2012 that the Arihant would be inducted by the middle of next year (Deccan 2012). The Arihant is believed to have 12 tubes designed to launch the Sagarika SMLB. US intelligence has reported the range of the Sagarika at more than 290 km or 180 miles (US Air Force, National Air and Space Intelligence Centre 2009). but media reports widely set the range around 700 km (435 miles). It is also rumoured that India is developing a long-range submarine-launched ballistic missile called the K-4 that is based on the Agni III design and supposedly has a range of more than 3000 km (1864 miles); however, such a missile would probably be too big for the Arihant to launch.

Summing up, it can be stated that, based on the information included in the above paragraphs, India will continue to keep nuclear weapons as a deterrence weapon in their nuclear arsenal during the coming decades. For this reason, the country will not be in favour of supporting any negotiations at multilateral level for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in all nuclear-weapon states, unless an agreement were reached to begin multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament with the participation of China and Pakistan. However, this is something that is not going to happen, at least during the coming years.

Disarmament Measures

India is not implementing any specific disarmament measures in order to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenal.


Israel, maintains a stance of nuclear ambiguity—neither confirming nor denying that it has nuclear weapons—though it has been widely accepted for decades that the country has a nuclear arsenal of not less than 80 warheads. In the absence of official information, the news media, think tanks, authors, and analysts have given widely varying appraisals of the size of the Israeli nuclear stockpile, from 80 up to more than 200 warheads or even as higher as 400 warheads.

It is estimated that the Israel nuclear deterrent force has the ability to deliver them by intermediate-range ballistic missile, intercontinental ballistic missile, aircraft, and submarine-launched cruise missile (FAS 2007).

Nuclear Doctrine

The State of Israel has always had a single defence goal – to ensure the existence of Israel and the security of its citizens. Israel is a tiny state and for this reason it lacks strategic depth. A hostile fighter could fly across all of Israel (40 nautical miles wide from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea) within 4 minutes, while travelling at subsonic speed. Israel is unable to field a large standing force compared with those it faces and must rely on its reserves. Israel’s small population also increases its sensitivity to civilian and military losses. To make up for quantitative disadvantages, Israel maintains as large a qualitative lead as possible. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) makes up for its lack of size by superior manoeuvrability and firepower, and by relying on intelligence.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, Israeli national security strategy is founded on the premise that Israel cannot afford to lose a single war. Because the best way to avoid losing a war is to not fight it in the first place, Israeli strategy begins with the maintenance of a credible deterrent posture, which includes the willingness to carry out pre-emptive strikes. Should deterrence fail, Israel would seek to prevent escalation, and determine the outcome of the war quickly and decisively. Since it lacks strategic depth, Israel must prevent the enemy from entering its territory, and must try to quickly transfer the battle to enemy territory.

Israel applies its non-declared nuclear weapons to all levels of this formula. The total Israeli nuclear stockpile consists of nuclear weapons of various types, including neutron bombs, as well as nuclear artillery shells. Strategically, Israel uses its long-range missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft (some experts include submarines with nuclear-armed cruise missiles) to deter both conventional and unconventional attacks, or to launch “the Samson Option”, an all-out attack against an adversary should defences fail and population centres be threatened. In addition, despite Israel’s insistence that it “will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,” these systems represent an effective pre-emptive strike force. At the same time, Israel deploys tactical systems designed to rapidly reduce an invading force. Following the 1973 war, Israel fielded at least three batteries of atomic-capable self-propelled 175 mm cannons equipped with a total of no less than 108 warheads, and placed atomic land mines in the Golan Heights during the early 1980s.

Israel does not have an overt nuclear doctrine beyond its insistence that it will not introduce nuclear weapons into the region. Instead, it follows a policy of what Avner Cohen calls “nuclear opacity” – visibly possessing nuclear weapons while denying their existence. This has allowed Israel to enjoy the benefits of being a nuclear weapons state in terms of deterrence without having to suffer the international repercussions of acknowledging their nuclear weapon arsenal. Israel also has a strong commitment to preventing its potential adversaries in the region from becoming declared nuclear-weapon states, as evidenced by Israel’s 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear installation, the destruction of the Syrian nuclear facility built without the knowledge of the IAEA, and the continual threat to attack nuclear facilities in Iran.

Summing up the following can be stated: Israel’s strategic nuclear policy is always a matter of great secrecy. From the standpoint of Israel’s national command authority, this stance would appear to be prudent and sensible. After all, beginning with the country’s longstanding commitment to deliberate ambiguity, a manifestly core policy position concerning nuclear weapons and nuclear warfare, every element of pertinent Israeli doctrine has remained determinedly in the basement.

According to the Israeli government, nuclear weapons must always be oriented to deterrence ex ante, not to war fighting or revenge ex post. As instruments of deterrence, nuclear weapons can succeed only in their non-use. Once they are used for actual battle, deterrence, by definition, has failed. Also, once used, any traditional, meaningful sense of victory, especially if both sides are nuclear, is apt to become controversial. In essence, any unmodified continuance of total ambiguity about Israel’s nuclear doctrine could cause a nuclearizing potential enemy state to underestimate Israeli retaliatory capacity or resolve. Similar uncertainties surrounding actual components of Israel’s nuclear arsenal could lead such potential enemy states to reach the same conclusion. In part, this is because Israel’s willingness to make good on threatened nuclear retaliation could be seen, widely perhaps, as inversely related to weapon system destructiveness. Ironically, in other words, if Israel’s nuclear weapons were believed to be too destructive, they might not deter. A continuing policy of total ambiguity could cause a potential enemy state to overestimate the vulnerability of Israel’s nuclear forces and act according to this assessment.

Nuclear Forces and its Modernisation

Israeli military forces possess land, air, and sea based methods for deploying their nuclear weapons, thus forming a nuclear triad that is mainly medium to long ranged, the backbone of which is a submarine-launched cruise missiles and medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles, with Israeli Air Force long range strike aircraft on call to perform nuclear interdiction and strategic strikes (Frantz 2003) (see Table 4). During 2008, the Jericho III ICBM became operational, giving Israel extremely long range nuclear strike abilities (Lennox 2007 and Azoulay 2008).

Table 4

Israel nuclear forces 2014


Year first deployed

Range (Km)



 F-16A/B/CD/I Fighting Falcon



Nuclear bombs possibly stored at underground facility near Tel Nof Air Base

 F-151 Ra’am (Thunder)



Potential nuclear strike role

Land-based missles

 Jericho II



Possibly 25–50 at Zekharia for TELs in caves

 Jericho III



In development

Sea-based missles

 Dolphin-class submarines



Possibly modified cruise missile for land-attack

Source: Bulletin of the American Scientists 2014

Israel is believed to have nuclear second-strike abilities in the form of its submarine fleet and its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that are understood to be buried deeply enough that they would survive a pre-emptive nuclear strike (Plushnick-Masti 2006). Ernst David Bergmann was the first to seriously begin thinking about the ballistic missile capability and Israel test-fired its first Shavit II sounding rocket in July 1961. The missiles that were first developed with France became the Jericho I system, first operational in 1971. It is possible that the Jericho I was removed from operational service during the 1990s. In the mid-1980s, the Jericho II medium-range missile, which is believed to have a range of 2800–5000 km, entered service (Steinberg 2011 and FAS 2011). It is believed that Jericho II is capable of delivering nuclear weapons with a superior degree of accuracy (MIIS 2011). The Jericho III ICBM, became operational in January 2008 (Hodge 2009 and Butcher 2008). Some reports speculate that the missile may be able to carry MIRVed warheads. The maximum range estimation of the Jericho III is 11,500 km with a payload of 1000–1300 kg (up to six small nuclear warheads of 100 kt each or one megaton nuclear warhead (Feikert 2004 and Toukan 2009) and its accuracy is considered high.

At the same time, regional defence experts said that by the beginning of 2008, Israel had already launched a program to extend the range of its existing Jericho II ground attack missiles (Butcher 2008). The Jericho II B missile is capable of sending a one-ton nuclear payload 5000 km. The range of Israel’s’ Jericho II B missiles is reportedly capable of being modified to carry nuclear warheads no heavier than 500 kg over 7800 km, making it an ICBM (CSIS-SCRS 2011). It is estimated that Israel had between 50 and 100 Jericho II B missiles based at facilities built in the 1980s. The number of Jericho III missiles that Israel possesses is unknown.

Israel is believed to use fighter bombers as a means to deliver nuclear weapons. The Israeli Aerial refuelling fleet of modified Boeing 707s and the use of external and conformal fuel tanks gives Israeli F-15, F-15I and F-16 fighter bombers strategic reach. F-16 fighter aircraft have been cited as possible nuclear delivery systems. The Israeli Air Force possesses the following types of strike fighters: Lockheed Martin F-16I Sufa (“Storm”) and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder”).

The Israeli Navy operates six modern German-built Dolphin-class submarines. The first three Dolphins were delivered to Israel in 1999 and replaced the aging Gal class submarines, which had served in the Israeli Navy since the late 1970s. Various reports (MIIS 2011) indicate that these submarines are equipped with Popeye turbo cruise missiles that can deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with extremely high accuracy. The proven effectiveness of cruise missiles of its own production may have been behind Israel’s recent acquisition of these submarines, which are equipped with torpedo tubes suitable for launching long-range (1500–2400 km) nuclear-capable cruise missiles (Israel Special Weapons 2011 and Nuclear Weapons Inventories of the Eight Known Nuclear Powers 2007) that would offer Israel a second strike capability. In 2006, the Israeli fleet was expanded after the country signed a €1.3 billion contract to purchase two additional submarines from Thyssen-Krupp’s. These two U212s were delivered to the Israeli Navy in 2011 and are “Dolphin II” class submarines. The submarines are believed to be capable of launching cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, despite statements by the German government in 2006, in confirming the sale of the two vessels, that they were not equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The two new boats are an upgraded version of the old Dolphins, and equipped with an air-independent propulsion system, that allow them to remain submerged for longer periods of time than the three nuclear arms-capable submarines that have been in Israel’s fleet since 1999 (Plushnick-Masti 2006).

Israel is reported to possess a 200 kg nuclear warhead, containing 6 kg of plutonium, that could be mounted on cruise missiles. The missiles were reportedly test launched in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka in June 2000, and are reported to have hit their target at a range of 1500 km. On June 2002, former State Department and Pentagon officials confirmed that the US Navy observed Israeli missile tests in the Indian Ocean in 2000, and that the Dolphin-class vessels have been fitted with nuclear-capable cruise missiles of a new design. It is believed by some experts to be a version of Rafael Armament Development Authority’s Popeye turbo cruise missile, while some others believe that the missile may be a version of the Gabriel 4LR that is produced by Israel Aircraft Industries.

Summing up can be stated that Israel will continue with its policy of neither accept or deny the possession of nuclear weapons and, for this reason, will not participate in any effort promote by the international community with the aim of destroying all nuclear weapons and the closure of all nuclear weapon production facilities located in the territories or under the jurisdiction or control of the well-known nuclear-weapon states.

Democratic People Republic of Korea

Since the beginning of the Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) nuclear weapon program, the government, to a great length has tried, using all means at their disposal, to hide its nuclear capabilities to produce nuclear weapons. Although North Korea’s nuclear program has drawn regular media coverage, it is unclear to what extent the country has militarised its nuclear capability. What is clear is that satellite monitoring and expert consensus suggest that, though the country has an undefined number of warheads, North Korea is certainly trying to achieve the ability to field deliverable nuclear weapons, but they are not yet there.

The last several years have witnessed a dramatic and overt build-up in North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities. The main activities include:

  • Conduct of underground nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013;

  • Restart of the small five MWe reactor at Yongbyon after a several-year halt;

  • Construction of an experimental light water reactor (ELWR) at Yongbyon;

  • Revelation of a centrifuge plant at Yongbyon and subsequent doubling of its size (Albright 2015).

All these activities have increased suspicions that there may be significant covert nuclear activities carried out by the government in the country, including the operation of a second centrifuge plant, but they do not want that these activities be known by the international community.

Nuclear Doctrine

Several experts consider that North Korea does possess a small operational nuclear weapons arsenal, including around ten nuclear weapons, but has not yet operational the delivery system of such weapons.

North Korea has a nuclear force that is too small and insufficiently accurate to use for a first strike that seeks to disarm an adversary through a counterforce strategy. Instead, Pyongyang will likely opt for a counter value strategy that targets South Korean or Japanese cities along with US military bases in Japan. If the DPRK is able to improve its long-range ballistic missiles, the U.S. mainland might be added to the target list, a serious change in the strategic landscape for Washington.

In addition, North Korea is working to maintain a second strike capability that ensures a part of its nuclear forces will survive an attack to retaliate. If North Korea chose to deploy its nuclear-tipped missiles on launch pads, these assets would be highly visible and vulnerable to preemption. To address this vulnerability, North Korea has three options for ensuring survivability:

  • Storing road-mobile missiles in hardened sites such as mountain tunnels and moving them out for launch;

  • Moving road-mobile missiles around on a road net making them more difficult to target:

  • Construction of a missile launch facility near the Chinese border. In this case, South Korea or the United States might hesitate to strike that site given the close proximity to China.

If North Korea has any doubts about the survivability of its nuclear forces, it may adopt a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture. According to Roehring (2013). under LOW, North Korea’s nuclear forces will be on hair-trigger alert to launch with little warning. But it is important to highlight that most of North Korea’s missiles are liquid-fuel rather than solid-fuel, a significant complication to a LOW posture. For this reason, it is reasonable to assume that North Korea will move toward a solid fuel capability as its program progresses during the coming years. Indeed, some reports note that the KN-08 is likely to be a solid-fuel missile making it much easier to launch on short notice.

If attacked, the DPRK would face a difficult decision, uncertain if an incoming strike were a limited action of punishment for some provocation or the prelude to regime change. If only a limited conventional strike is carried out by the U.S. or South Korea and North Korea responded with nuclear weapons, this would be an escalation Seoul and Washington would not tolerate. Also, it may not matter if a South Korean or U.S. strike were conventional or nuclear since the result could have the same strategic effect in North Korea by taking out its nuclear weapons. If an attack on North Korea were indeed the start of regime change, North Korean leaders may believe they have little to lose in using nuclear weapons. All of these scenarios place a premium on crisis stability.

Nuclear Forces and its Modernisation

On February 2013, with a yield that most experts estimate was around 6 to 10 kt, the DPRK, exploited a nuclear device. The test came on the heels of a December 2012 missile launch that placed a satellite into orbit, though reports soon indicated that the satellite was not functioning properly. Given North Korea’s actions and apparent determination, any chance to achieve complete and verifiable denuclearisation need the adoption of a group of actions by all parties involved. One of the possible actions that needs to be adopted is the conclusion of a peace treaty between the DPRK, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), China, and the U.S. The purpose of this treaty is to end definitively the Korean War. Other possible actions that should be considered in order to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be found in Morales Pedraza (2009 and 2013).

According to different estimates made by several experts, the number of nuclear weapons in the North Korean arsenal ranges up to ten (most probably 6–8 warheads). With the announcement to restart operations at nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, North Korea may be able to produce one additional warhead per year. Little is known concretely about North Korea’s development or deployment of deliverable nuclear weapons, although it is likely able to build a warhead, perhaps one of limited reliability, which can fit atop a NODONG missile with a range of less than 800 miles (Albright 2013).

North Korea has worked on nuclear weaponisation for over 20 years and may have received nuclear weapons designs from the AQ Khan network in the 1990s or earlier from China. These developments support assessments that North Korea can build a miniature warhead for a NODONG and possibly other missiles, but this has not been confirmed. In particular, given the likely dimensions of such a warhead, Pyongyang could also be able to place it on a large TAEPODONG ICBM, although whether such a weapon would prove operationally effective remains unclear due to probable problems with reliability as well as what appears to be a lack of reentry vehicle testing (Albright 2015).

In 2002, indications of a second path to nuclear weapons surfaced when U.S. officials challenged North Korea with evidence it was pursuing a high-enriched uranium (HEU) program. Pyongyang informed the UN Security Council in 2009 that the DPRK was ready to enter the final phase of uranium enrichment. The next year, North Korean officials revealed a modern uranium enrichment facility with close to 2000 centrifuges to visiting Stanford physicist, Siegfried Hecker. Speculation was rife that the February test would use HEU, but this was never confirmed and the extent of the DPRK’s HEU program remains uncertain.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions are complemented by a ballistic missile program. According to Roehring (2013). the DPRK has over 600 short-range SCUD missiles that can reach most of the Korean Peninsula along with 200 medium-range NODONG missiles with sufficient range to hit Japan. Reports have surfaced of other longer range missiles, including the MUSUDAN intermediate range missile and the longer range KN-08. Both are mounted on mobile launchers, but are not yet operational.

One of the main objectives of the ICBM program is the development of a missile that could reach the United States and the weaponisation of a nuclear device to fit on a ballistic missile. An assessment by the Defence Intelligence Agency noted with moderate confidence that the “North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however the reliability will be low”. The Obama Administration backed away from the finding leaving in doubt the precise nature of the DPRK’s progress on this important technology. If using HEU, the warhead is easier to miniaturise, but it is also heavier than a plutonium warhead requiring greater lift capability, particularly for an intercontinental ballistic missile. DPRK technicians will also need to develop guidance systems and reentry vehicles capable of surviving both the launch and reentry. North Korea has developed some of this technology for the NODONG, but longer range missiles are a greater challenge.

The precise direction of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is very difficult to predict. Given the current testing program of both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, experts consider that the DPRK will likely go beyond its current capability to pursue a small, operational program, perhaps to a range between 20 and 40 warheads. According to Chinese sources, the nuclear weapon program could reach 20 warheads by 2020. It is important to note that North Korea’s ambitions for a nuclear deterrent will not be cheap or easy, and it will take much more time, money, and testing for the DPRK to develop a reliable nuclear weapons capability. A plethora of sanctions has also slowed North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. These challenges will seriously constrain the scope of the DPRK program.

Finally, it is important to highlight that in the future the nuclear weapon program in the DPRK will be focusing on:

  • Increasing production of fissile material and the size of its overall stockpile;

  • Conducting more nuclear tests;

  • Increasing the explosive yield of its nuclear weapons, including more advanced designs using composite cores or thermonuclear materials to achieve higher yields;

  • Achieving additional miniaturisation of warheads without sacrificing yield;

  • Reducing the amount of plutonium needed in a nuclear weapon;

  • Increasing the safety, security, and reliability of its nuclear weapons;

  • Continuing to seek a range of goods abroad for its nuclear programs, including classified and proprietary information;

  • Increasing level of self-sufficiency in order to avoid restrictions imposed by sanctions and export controls.

Key factors that will affect their ability to make these improvements are:

  • Level of political and economic commitment;

  • Overcoming technical barriers;

  • Level of foreign assistance.

Based on the information provided above, it can be stated that the DPRK has no intention to stop the production of nuclear weapons and will be ready to begin the destruction of its nuclear weapon program if other nuclear-weapons states, particularly the U.S. begin the destruction of their own nuclear weapons. In addition to this process, a peace treaty should be negotiated and signed between all parties involved in the Korean War, something that is not expected to happen in the coming years.

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