Please enable JavaScript in your browser to view this site in optimal condition.
When displaying with JavaScript disabled, some functions may not be available or correct information may not be obtained.

Hiroshima for Global Peace

(4) Reduction of Nuclear Weapons

A) Reduction of nuclear weapons


Five-year extension

The most pressing issue surrounding the U.S.-Russia New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which entered into force in February 2011, had been the question of extending the treaty before its expiration on February 5, 2021. On January 21, 2021, the day after the president’s inauguration, the Biden administration announced its intention to extend New START for five years. At the U.S.-Russia summit on January 26, the two leaders “discussed both countries’ willingness to extend New START for five years, agreeing to have their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5. They agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues.”55 They also exchanged diplomatic notes on the treaty’s extension.

While the United States could approve the extension of the New START by an executive decision, Russia requires approval by the State Duma. Following this approval, the United States and Russia exchanged formal documents on the extension on February 3, and completed the process of extending the treaty until February 5, 2026.

U.S. State Secretary Antony J. Blinken emphasized in a statement, “President Biden has made clear that the New START Treaty extension is only the beginning of our efforts to address 21st century security challenges. The United States will use the time provided by a five-year extension of the New START Treaty to pursue with the Russian Federation, in consultation with Congress and U.S. allies and partners, arms control that addresses all of its nuclear weapons.”56 The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “Significant steps would be required to return our bilateral dialogue in this area back to a more stable trajectory, reach new substantial results which would strengthen our national security and global strategic stability. Russia is ready to do its part. We urge the U.S. to apply a similarly responsible approach and to respond to our initiatives in a constructive manner.”57

Meanwhile, speaking at Russia’s State Duma in January 2021, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated, “The counting rules within the framework of [New START] will … apply to such new warheads as ‘Avangard,’ if it undergoes ratification and is extended by five years.”58 The United States has also clarified its interpretation that the New START imposes verifiable limits on new Russian long-range nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S. homeland, including Avangard.59


Russia and the United States continue to implement the New START. The status of their strategic (nuclear) delivery vehicles and warheads under the New START has been periodically updated on the U.S. Department of State homepage (see Table 1-4). The United States also has declassified the number of each type of its strategic delivery vehicles through September 2020 (see Table 1-5). According to the data as of February 5, 2018—the deadline for reducing their strategic arsenals under the treaty—the number of Russian and U.S. deployed strategic delivery vehicles and deployed/non-deployed strategic delivery vehicles/launchers, besides deployed strategic warheads, fell below the limit. They continue to meet the limits for strategic nuclear forces.


Since the treaty’s entry into force, Russia and the United States have implemented on-site inspections under the New START. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting these inspections have not been possible since April 1, 2020. According to the U.S. State Department, as of December 23, 2021, the two countries have conducted 328 onsite inspections and exchanged 23,050 notifications since the entry into force of the New START.60


The U.S. Department of State evaluated in its annual report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments that both the United States and Russia complied with the New START. On the other hand, Russia has in recent years raised concern about the status of U.S. implementation of the treaty. In May 2021, for instance, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that the United States had removed 56 ballistic missile launchers, 41 heavy bombers and 4 ICBM silos from its declared arsenal but that Russia was unable to confirm that they were no longer nuclear-capable; in its view, “[t]hus, the figure allowed under … the Treaty is exceeded by the United States by 101.”61


Post-New START

When Washington and Moscow agreed to a five-year extension of the New START in February 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said, “The United States will use the time provided by a five-year extension of the New START Treaty to pursue with the Russian Federation, in consultation with Congress and U.S. allies and partners, arms control that addresses all of its nuclear weapons. We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal. The United States is committed to effective arms control that enhances stability, transparency and predictability while reducing the risks of costly, dangerous arms races.”62

At the first-ever U.S.-Russian summit between Presidents Biden and Vladimir Putin, held in Geneva on June 16, 2021, the two presidents issued a “Joint Statement on Strategic Stability”63 consisting of three paragraphs. In this joint statement, firstly, the United States and Russia stated, “[They] have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.” In the second paragraph, the U.S. and Russian presidents “reaffirm[ed] the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” And the last paragraph stated that the two countries would soon launch an “integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue.” They elaborated, “Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.”

The first meeting of the Strategic Stability Dialogue was held in Geneva on July 28, led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Lyapkov. Although details were not disclosed, they discussed the current security environment, their threat perceptions regarding strategic stability, the prospects for new nuclear arms control, and the format of future sessions of the Strategic Stability Dialogue. The United States characterized the discussions as “professional and substantive.”64

At the second meeting in the late September, “[t]he two delegations agreed to form two interagency expert working groups – the Working Group on Principles and Objectives for Future Arms Control, and the Working Group on Capabilities and Actions with Strategic Effects.”65 While the details of this meeting were not disclosed, U.S. Under Secretary Bonnie Jenkins stated, “Our efforts are guided by several key concepts. First, we will look to capture new kinds of intercontinental-range nuclear delivery systems. Second, we will seek to address all nuclear warheads, including those which have not been limited previously, like so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons. Third, we will seek to retain limits on Russian intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments after New START expires in 2026.”66

In the meantime, before the bilateral summit meeting in June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly suggested that that the missile defense issue, which Russia has long considered problematic, should have been included in the agenda of the talks, with saying, “[W]e confirmed our proposal to start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive.”67 In addition, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov noted before that second meeting that the United States and Russia “intend[ed] to discuss not only specific types and classes of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons capable of performing strategic missions, but also the actions of the Sides that have a ‘strategic effect.’” He also explained, “It is our understanding that such an approach provides an opportunity for the two delegations to reach a set of agreements and understandings that may have different statuses and include measures in both arms control and risk reduction.”68

Regarding the issue of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles after the demise of the INF Treaty, in October 2020, Russian President Putin stated, “[W]e reaffirm the commitment to the Russian Federation’s previously announced moratorium on the deployment of ground-launched intermediate-and shorter-range missiles as long as no similar class missile weapons of U.S. manufacture emerge in the respective regions.” He then proposed the following new arms control measures:69

➢ Implementing verification measures regarding the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems equipped with Mk-41 launchers at U.S. and NATO bases in Europe and the 9M729 missiles at Russian military facilities in the Kaliningrad Region;
➢ Refraining from further deployment of the 9M729 missiles in Russia’s European territory—while staying committed to the consistent position that the 9M729 missile is in full conformity with the terminated INF Treaty—unless the NATO countries were to deploy missiles in Europe which were prohibited under the INF Treaty; and
➢ Calling upon all parties concerned to explore ways of maintaining stability and preventing missile crises “in a world without the INF Treaty” with regard to the Asia-Pacific Region.

At the 2021 First Committee of the UNGA, Russia said that it maintained the abovementioned proposal, and called upon the NATO members for agreeing and cooperating with Russia.70 However, the United States and other NATO countries have rejected Russia’s proposals, arguing that Russia’s 9M729 testing and deployment was a violation of the INF Treaty in the first place; that deployment of the Mk-41 does not constitute a violation of the INF Treaty; and that the targeted areas for applying verification measures is largely asymmetrical.

Other nuclear-armed states

As mentioned above, the United States has repeatedly said it was necessary to address China’s nuclear issues, while stating that it would discuss the reduction of nuclear weapons after New START and aim for an agreement bilaterally with Russia.71

In May 2021, U.S. Ambassador for the CD Wood said, “Despite the PRC’s dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States. For our part, we have and will continue to seek indepth bilateral exchanges on nuclear doctrines, proposed missile launch notification agreements, and more robust crisis communication channels.”72

In addition, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg critically said that “China’s nuclear arsenal is rapidly expanding. With more warheads. And more sophisticated delivery systems. Moreover, China is building a large number of missile silos, which can significantly increase its nuclear capability. All of this is happening without any limitation or constraint. And with a complete lack of transparency.” He also added, “[W]e also need to include more countries in future arms control. In particular China. As a global power, China has global responsibilities in arms control. And Beijing too would benefit from mutual limits on numbers, increased transparency, and more predictability. These are the foundations for international stability.”73

Among the five NWS, China has declared neither concrete information on its number of deployed or possessed nuclear weapons, nor any plan for their reduction. China has made it clear that it is not prepared to join arms control and disarmament talks without initial commensurate action by the United States, stating the following at the UNGA First Committee in October 2021:

China advocates that nuclear disarmament should be a fair and reasonable process of gradual and balanced reduction on the basis of maintaining global strategic stability and undiminished security for all. The United States, in pursuit of absolute military advantage, keeps hyping up major-power competition, strengthens military alliances, makes huge investment in upgrading its nuclear triad, lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons, and constantly develops and deploys global anti-missile system, undermining global strategic balance and stability. As the country that conducted most nuclear tests in the world and made largest investment in modernizing its nuclear arsenals, the United States should fulfill its special and primary responsibility in nuclear disarmament and further substantially reduce its nuclear weapons, to create conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join nuclear disarmament process.74

Russian President Putin reiterated his previous position of not actively seeking China’s participation, and said that “China won’t engage in negotiations on arms control, it refuses to negotiate reductions in nuclear offensive weapons. You should ask the Chinese about it, whether it’s good or bad. It’s for them to decide. But their arguments are simple and understandable: in terms of the amount of ammunition and warheads and delivery vehicles, the United States and Russia are far, far ahead of China.”75

Russia has also argued that that if China is to be asked to participate in nuclear arms control, then France and the United Kingdom should be asked to do so as well. Foreign Minister Lavrov, for instance, stated in February 2021, “Russia will continue to make its substantial practical contribution to the nuclear missile disarmament. Further progress in this area requires the involvement of all States possessing military nuclear capabilities, particularly the United Kingdom and France. Russia is open for multilateral dialogue, which should be held on the basis of consensus and respect for the legitimate interests of all sides, as well as upon their consent.”76

Neither France nor the United Kingdom have shown interest in joining such a dialogue. On the contrary, as mentioned above, the United Kingdom has indicated its policy to raise the upper limit on the number of nuclear weapons it possesses in 2021. In addition, France has not formulated a policy for further reductions since its decision in 2015 to reduce the upper limit of its nuclear arsenal to 300 weapons, and in 2020 President Macron made it clear that France would never renounce its nuclear forces unilaterally.77

As for India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, there is no information, nor any statements or analysis which suggest any reductions of their nuclear weapons or capabilities. To the contrary, as noted below, they have been expanding their nuclear programs.

B) A concrete plan for further reduction of nuclear weapons

In 2021, there was no new proposal by nuclear-armed states to take concrete measures for further reductions of their nuclear arsenals. As mentioned above, U.S.-Russian talks regarding further reductions of their strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces made little progress. China, France and the United Kingdom have not changed their positions that further significant reduction of Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals is necessary before a multilateral process of nuclear weapons reductions can be commenced. In South Asia, Pakistan stated merely that it would abandon its nuclear weapons if India were to do the same.


C) Trends on strengthening/ modernizing nuclear weapons capabilities

While nuclear-armed states have reiterated their commitments to promoting nuclear disarmament, they continue to modernize and/or strengthen their nuclear weapons capabilities. According to a report published by PAX and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2021, the total amount of nuclear weapons-related expenditures (including modernization of nuclear forces) by nine nuclear-armed states in 2020 was estimated at $72.6 billion, of which $37.4 billion was spent by the United States, approximately $10 billion by China, and $8 billion by Russia.78 At the 2021 UNGA First Committee, many countries expressed concerns about this trend. In addition, countries, including Egypt and Mexico, argued that financial resources should be spent in responding to societal needs and health issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than on nuclear arsenals.


Although China has not disclosed the status of its development and deployment of nuclear weapons, it has actively carried out their modernization.

According to the annual report on Chinese military and security developments in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Defense, “[t]he accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”79 This report also mentioned that “[i]n 2020, the PRC launched more than 250 ballistic missiles exceeding its launch numbers for 2018 and 2019 despite COVID-19.”80 In response, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin strongly blamed the United States, saying: “The Defense Department report, just like similar reports in the past, disregards facts and is filled with bias. The US is using this report to hype up the “China nuclear threat” theory. But this trick of manipulating rhetoric to confuse public opinion is seen through by the international community. As a matter of fact, the top source of nuclear threat in the world is no other but the US itself.”81

Strategic nuclear forces

The main component of China’s strategic nuclear forces is ICBMs. For a long time, China’s only strategic nuclear forces capable of reaching the U.S. homeland were the 20 DF-5 silo-based ICBMs which began to be deployed in 1981. However, since the latter half of the 2000s, it has introduced DF-31A/AG mobile ICBMs, DF-5B silo-based ICBMs with MIRVs that can carry three to five warheads per a missile, and DF-41 MIRVed ICBMs which can mount up to 10 warheads per a missile (while it is also considered to carry about three warheads as well as some decoys). The U.S. Department of Defense assesses that China has 100 ICBM launchers and 150 ICBMs in its arsenal.82

One of the most closely watched news stories regarding China’s nuclear activities in 2021were reports based on analysis of satellite images that China has constructed a number of ICBM silos. In February, it was reported that at least 16 silos probably for DF-41s were under construction at a training area located east of the city of Jilantai in the Inner Mongolia province. According to the report, “[t]he silos are spaced 2.2-4.4 kilometers…apart, enough to ensure, presumably, that no two of them can be destroyed in a single one nuclear attack.”83

In July, another report revealed that China was building 119 facilities believed to be ICBM silos in the desert area northwest of Yumen, Gansu Province.84 In addition, satellite images revealed that it was building 110 facilities which appeared to be ICBM silos in Eastern Xinjiang.85 Furthermore, in August, a U.S. intelligence agency reportedly assessed that China was constructing a third missile field with more than 100 silos for DF-41s.86 Each missile silo field appears to include a number of other facilities that might be launch-control centers, bases, and support facilities.87 A report in November revealed that “new commercial satellite images show significant progress at the three sites as well as at the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF)’s training site near Jilantai.”88

While it is unclear why China was constructing the abovementioned new silos, or whether and to what extent it will use them as empty decoys, U.S. experts suggested the following possible motivations: “reducing the vulnerability of China’s ICBMs to a first strike; overcoming potential effects of missile defenses; transitioning from liquid-fuel to solid-fuel silo missiles; increasing the readiness of the ICBM force; Balancing the ICBM force; increasing China’s nuclear strike capability; increasing the number and types of strike options; and increasing national prestige.”89 The United States raised concerns about China’s activities. For instance, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “[T]hese reports and other developments suggest that the PRC’s nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly, and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated. This buildup – it is concerning. It raises questions about the PRC’s intent.”90

China has not officially responded to the above analysis, or the reports on the alleged construction of ICBM silos. On the other hand, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times argued that the DF-41s are a mobile missile so it is doubtful that they need a silo. Criticizing the report, the newspaper said: “Their purpose is obvious: to exert public opinion pressure on China’s nuclear deterrence building and force China to respond to their speculation. They aim to hamper China’s nuclear capacity building by making an issue of it and putting China in a passive position to defend itself.”91

As for other strategic nuclear forces, China has reportedly equipped its improved Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) (Type 094A) with the latest JL-3 SLBMs (with a range of over 10,000 km).92 According to the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on China’ military power in 2021, China is planning a next-generation SSBN (Type 096), whose construction is expected to begin in the early 2020s and be equipped with the JL-3 SLBMs under development. In addition, China is expected to operate up to eight SSBNs by 2030.93 Meanwhile, China is completing its strategic nuclear triad with the H-6N strategic bomber which can carry nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missiles, and the H-6K strategic bomber which can carry nuclear-capable cruise missiles.

Non-strategic nuclear forces

China’s ground-launched short- and intermediate-range missile forces are among the world’s best in terms of both quality and numbers. The U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on China’s military forces estimates that China has 200 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launchers and 300 missiles, 250 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) launchers and 600 missiles, 250 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) launchers and 1,000 missiles.94 The report also pointed out that the inventory of DF-26 IRBMs which can reach Guam continues to increase,95 and that the DF-26 is capable of conducting precision strikes, and is the most likely weapon system to field a lower-yield nuclear warhead.96

The DF-21 and DF-26 have derivatives with anti-ship strike capability. It was reported in January 2021 that in August 2020, China conducted a test in the South China Sea in which it fired each missile at a vessel in navigation, and the two missiles hit almost simultaneously, sinking the vessel.97

In addition to ballistic and cruise missiles, China has been actively developing hypersonic missiles. It started to deploy DF-17 hypersonic missiles in 2020, and Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said in November 2021 that China has commissioned them in large numbers.98 Furthermore, it was reported in October 2021 that China launched a rocket carrying a HGV into low earth orbit, which then re-entered the earth’s atmosphere, landing ‘about two-dozen miles’ from its intended target.99 U.S. experts pointed out it would have been a test of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS).100 In November, John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “They launched a long-range missile. It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China.”101 However, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “As we understand, this was a routine test of spacecraft to verify technology of spacecraft’s reusability.”102 On the other hand, regarding this test, the HGV reportedly launched a separate missile during its flight in the atmosphere over the South China Sea.103


In 2015, France said that it possessed not more than 300 nuclear weapons, and its nuclear deterrent consists of 54 middle-range ALCMs and three sets of 16 SLBMs.104 In 2021, there was no change in this nuclear force posture.

France began operating the M51.2s, which will carry a new type of nuclear warhead, in December 2017, and plans to load them on all of its SSBNs by 2020. It also plans to complete development of the M51.3 SLBMs by 2025, which incorporate a new third stage for extended range and further improved accuracy. In addition, France launched a program in 2021 to develop a third-generation SSBN (SNLE 3G) to be in service by 2035, and an M51.4 SLBM to be mounted on it by the early 2040s.105 As for the successor to the air-to-surface medium-range cruise missile (ASMPT), France has begun design and development of the ASN4G (air-sol nucléaire 4ème génération), which is scheduled to enter into service around 2035.


Russia has been actively promoting the development and deployment of various types of delivery vehicles, including the replacement of nuclear forces built during the Cold War era, mainly aiming to maintain nuclear deterrence against the United States.

Regarding Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, few significant developments were reported in 2021. ICBMs remain the core of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. Among them, the deployment of the mobile/silo-based MIRVed RS-24 (Yars), which can carry four warheads per missile and began operation in 2010 and can carry four warheads per unit, is underway. Russia has also repeatedly tested the MIRVed RS-28 (Sarmat) which can carry 10-16 nuclear warheads, and plans to begin replacing the SS-18 (RS-20V) ICBMs by 2021.

The RS-28 is positioned as the successor to the RS-20V (SS-18 Satan) and is planned to be deployed from 2022. The Russian armed forces plan to deploy SARMAT missiles in 2022.

As for its sea-based nuclear forces, the conversion to Borei-class SSBNs has begun, with three ships in service, and five more under construction. In January 2021, Russia also announced to construct two more SSBNs.106

In terms of nuclear-capable cruise missile forces, Russia conducted a test of the Kalibr SLCM on a target in the Sea of Japan in April 2021.

Meanwhile, Russia has also been active in developing “exotic” nuclear delivery systems, and there are various developments in 2021 as in the previous years. For instance, it was reported that the first regiment of strategic missile systems with the Avangard boost-glide vehicle would go on combat duty by the end of 2021, and the second regiment would assume combat alert in the Russian Strategic Missile Force by 2023.107 In July 2021, the Russian defense ministry stated that it had conducted a test of the sea-launched Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, which hit a ground target located more than 350 kilometers away, with the missile travelling at seven times the speed of sound.108 The Zircons were test-fired from a nuclear submarine for the first time in October,109 and from a frigate in November.110 President Putin said that tests of the Zircon were nearing completion, and deliveries to the navy would begin in 2022.111

In addition, Russia has developed the Status-6, or Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) featuring a long-range nuclear torpedo with a range of more than 10,000 km driven by nuclear power, and the SSC-X-9 (Skyfall) nuclear-propelled cruise missile. The letter’s development has been observed to be experiencing difficulty.112 In August 2021, Russia was reportedly preparing a test of Skyfall.113 However, there was no follow-up during 2021.

In the meantime, it was reported that Russia began building an upgraded version of two aerial command centers nicknamed the “Doomsday,” modeled after the Ilyushin Il-96-400M, which are designed to evacuate the Russian president and other top officials in the event of a nuclear conflict and allow them to send orders to forces on the ground. The Il-96-400M is expected to be able to fly for twice as far as the existing aerial command center, and will be able to deliver nuclear launch orders to strategic aviation, mobile and silo missile launchers and submarines within a 6,000-kilometer radius.114

The United Kingdom

As mentioned above, the United Kingdom declared in its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy that it would move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads while the policy of having only four strategic nuclear submarines was maintained.115

In October 2017, the United Kingdom started to construct a new Dreadnought-class of four SSBNs to replace the existing Vanguard-class SSBNs. The first new SSBN is expected to enter into service in the early 2030s, but construction has been delayed due to technical problems. (See the Hiroshima Report 2021) The SLBMs to be mounted on the new SSBNs are planned to be equipped with the W93 nuclear warhead, which is under consideration in cooperation with the United States.

The United States

The new Biden administration, inaugurated in January 2021, did not indicate a policy on nuclear force modernization during that year. The Democratic Party platform for the presidential election states, “We will work to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while reducing our overreliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons. The Trump Administration’s proposal to build new nuclear weapons is unnecessary, wasteful, and indefensible.”116 However, the Biden administration’s proposed defense budget requested a total of $43.2 billion for all of the existing modernization programs planned during the previous Trump administration (replacing all strategic nuclear triad, as well as maintaining low-power nuclear SLBMs and developing nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs)).

The timing for renewal of the U.S. strategic delivery vehicles which began deployment during the Cold War is drawing closer. The U.S. modernization plans of its strategic nuclear force as of 2021 are as follows:

➢ Constructing 12 Colombia-class SSBNs, the first of which commence operation in 2031;
➢ Building 400 Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD, the new ICBMs) for replacing 450 Minuteman III; and
➢ Developing and deploying B-21 next generation strategic bombers as well as Long Range Stand-Off Weapon (LRSO).

Proponents of nuclear disarmament persistently argued that the modernization plans should be reviewed from the perspective of reducing the budget for nuclear force modernization and reallocating it to other important issues, as well as promoting nuclear arms control by further reducing the number of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, U.S. Strategic Command Charles Richard said at the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on April 20, “We have reached a point, however, where end-of-life limitations and underinvestment in our strategic deterrent and supporting infrastructure – coupled with adversaries who are modernizing and fielding increasingly capable forces – leave no remaining margin for capability replacement.” He also warned, “[M]any of the modernization and sustainment efforts (which typically require 10-15 years to execute) have zero remaining schedule margin and some are already late-to-need. If the nation does not continue to address these concerns, no amount of money will be able to adequately mitigate operational risks associated with key stockpile and infrastructure capability losses.”117

With regard to the deployment of SLBMs equipped with low-yield nuclear warheads (W76-2) and the development of nuclear SLCMs, both of which were promoted during the Trump administration, while President Biden was critical during his presidential campaign, his administration did not indicate its intentions of whether or not to maintain the programs in 2021 as the process of developing the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) progressed toward completion in early 2022.

As for non-strategic nuclear forces, the Biden administration announced in October that the U.S. Air Force has completed the final flight test in the design certification process for the installation of B61-12 gravity nuclear bombs on F-35A fighter jets, and would enter the nuclear operational certification phase.118 In addition, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) reported that it completed the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) First Production Unit (FPU) on November 2021.119

In the meantime, the United States succeeded in flight tests of hypersonic weapons in September and October and continues to pursue the development of hypersonic weapons, though their efforts lag behind those of Russia and China. Another test conducted in October aiming to collect data for the development of hypersonic weapon technology failed,120 but a test of a booster rocket motor was successfully conducted.121 The U.S. hypersonic weapons are for conventional warheads and do not carry nuclear warheads (unlike those of China and Russia, which are capable of both nuclear and conventional use).

The United States has also promoted modernization of nuclear warheads.122 For instance, it announced the completion of the first production example of the improved W88 Alteration 370 warhead, after 11 years of work, and a major, costly delay. Although specific details about the warhead are classified, the Alt 370 upgrade package “replaces the arming, fuzing, and firing subsystem, adds a lightning arrestor connector, and refreshes the conventional high explosives within the weapon to enhance nuclear safety and support future life extension program options.”123 The United States is also conducting a concept assessment, in collaboration with the United Kingdom as mentioned above, of the W93 nuclear warhead, which is planned to be installed on the UK’s new SLBMs.124


India appears to be aggressively pursuing the possession of a strategic nuclear triad. In October 2021, it conducted test-launches of the 5,000 km range Agni-5 land-based long-range missile.125 India also plans to build three S5 submarines capable of loading longer-range missiles, as a follow-on class to the Arihant submarines.126

India also test-launched Agni Ps, the latest variant of its Agni family of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles with a range capability of between 1,000 and 2,000 km, in June and December 2021.127


Israel has neither confirmed nor denied possession of nuclear weapons, and its nuclear activities are opaque. As for nuclear delivery means, Israel has developed and deployed both nuclear capable ground-launched medium-range ballistic missiles and SLCMs. In January 2020, it reportedly conducted a test launch of its Jericho long-range ballistic missile.128


Pakistan has prioritized the development and deployment of nuclear-capable short-and medium-range missiles for ensuring deterrence vis-à-vis India, and conducted flight tests of various missiles in 2021, as in the previous years. For instance, Pakistan has successfully test-fired the Shaheen-3 IRBM with a range of 2,750km in January,129 and Hatf-III SRBM (290km) as well as Hatf-VII GLCM (450 km) in February.130 In addition, it successfully conducted flight test of Shaheen-1A nuclear-capable MRBM (900 km) in March and November.131

North Korea

Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Jong Un stated at the Central Committee of the Party held in early January 2021, “Now that our national defence capabilities are in the level of preemptively containing the hostile forces’ threat outside our territory.” He called for further strengthening strategic capabilities, including through development of the following:132

➢ Small, light tactical nuclear weapons;
➢ A “super-large” hydrogen bomb;
➢ Nuclear-powered submarines;
➢ Intermediate-range cruise missiles;
➢ Solid-fuel ICBMs and SLBMs; and
➢ Hypersonic gliding flight warheads.

Throughout the year, North Korea showed several new systems.

At a military parade on January 14, the Pukguksong-5 SLBM was unveiled. In April, it was reported that North Korea had completed construction work on a 3,000-ton submarine at its shipyard in Sinpo.

Since November 2017, North Korea has not conducted nuclear and long-range missile tests. However, North Korea continued to actively conduct launch tests of various other nuclear delivery means in 2021, as in the previous year.

For instance, in March, North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles which are considered to be an improved version of the KN-23 SRBM.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the warhead that can be mounted on the missile weighed 2.5 tons. It claimed that the missiles accurately hit a target 600 kilometers offshore, and that the capability of low-altitude gliding leap type flight mode was confirmed.133 It is analyzed as a highly maneuverable ballistic missile, capable of pull-up operation at the terminal phase of the missile’s flight.

In September, a series of missile tests were conducted. On the 11th and 12th of the month, launch tests of a new type of long-range cruise missile were conducted consecutively. North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science reported, “The launched long-range cruise missiles traveled for 7,580 seconds along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits in the air above the territorial land and waters of the DPRK and hit targets 1,500 km away.”134 On 15th, a railway-borne missile regiment fired two SRBMs, considered to be KN-23s, from a train, which struck a target area 800 kilometers away from its location, according to the KCNA.135 Furthermore, on September 28, North Korea test-fired a brand-new hypersonic missile named Hwasong-8. It reported that “In the first test-launch, [it] confirmed the navigational control and stability of the missile in the active section and also its technical specifications including the guiding maneuverability and the gliding flight characteristics of the detached hypersonic gliding warhead.”136 An expert analyzed as follows: “[A]n HGV payload strongly resembling that used on the Chinese DF-17 missile. Many pertinent aspects of the launch currently are unknown, including the success of the test and the accuracy and intended payload of the HGV.”137

On October 19, Pyongyang test-launched a new SLBM which is considered to be an improved version of the KN23 SLBM. The KCNA reported, “It clarified that the new type SLBM, into which lots of advanced control guidance technologies including flank mobility and gliding skip mobility are introduced, will greatly contribute to putting the defence technology of the country on a high level and to enhancing the underwater operational capability of our navy.”138

55 “Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia,” January 26, 2021, nt-joseph-r-biden-jr-call-with-president-vladimir-putin-of-russia/.
56 Antony J. Blinken, “On the Extension of the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation,” Press Statement, February 3, 2021,
57 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, “Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the Extension of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” February 3, 2021, safety/-/asset_publisher/FXwQn3fmpBvm/content/id/4551078.
58 Mark Episkopos, “Russia Confirm Avangard Missile System Falls under New START,” National Interest, January 27, 2021,
59 The U.S. Department of State, “New START Treaty,”
60 Ibid.
61 “Russia Raises Concerns over U.S. Implementation of Arms Control Treaty,” Reuters, May 24, 2021,
62 Blinken, “On the Extension of the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation.”
63 “U.S.-Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability.”
64 “Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Participation in Strategic Stability Dialogue with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov,” The U.S. Department of State, July 28, 2021,
65 “Joint Statement on the Outcomes of the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue in Geneva,” September 30, 2021, stability-dialogue-in-geneva-on-september-30/.
66 Bonnie Jenkins, “Nuclear Arms Control: A New Era?” Remarks to the 17th Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation, Copenhagen, September 6, 2021, https://
67 “Lavrov Called His Meeting with Blinken Constructive,” Tass, May 20, 2021, politics/1291733.
68 “Envoy: Russian-U.S. Dialogue on Strategic Stability Develops in Right Direction,” Vestnik Kavkaza, October 26, 2021,
69 “Moscow Ready Not to Deploy 9M729 Missiles in European Russia, Putin Says,” Tass, October 26, 2020,
70 “Statement by Russia,” General Debate, First Committee, UNGA, October 6, 2021.
71 A U.S. senior administration official said before the U.S.-Russia summit meeting in June 2021, “I think, ultimately, we are going to need to have a sustained conversation with China on arms control-related issues. But the President has made clear that, at the outset, a bilateral discussion between the two biggest nuclear powers in the world is the way to start.” “Background Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Officials En Route Geneva, Switzerland,” White House, June 15, 2021, press-briefings/2021/06/15/background-press-gaggle-by-senior-administration-officials-en-route-gene va-switzerland/.
72 Robert Wood, “Remarks to the CD Plenary Thematic Debate on Agenda Item 2,” May 18, 2021, bate-on-agenda-item-2/.
73 Jens Stoltenberg, “Remarks,” at the 17th Annual NATO Conference on, Arms Control, Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation, September 6, 2021, en/natohq/opinions_186295.htm?selectedLocale=en.
74 “Statement by China,” Clusters I to IV, First Committee, UNGA, October 13, 2021.
75 “Making Russia Responsible for China’s Stance on Nuclear Arms is Laughable – Putin,” Tass, January 15, 2021,
76 “Address by Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, to the High Level Segment of the Conference on Disarmament,” February 24, 2021, policy/international_safety/regprla/-/asset_publisher/YCxLFJnKuD1W/content/id/4594359.
77 “Speech of the President of the Republic on the Defense and Deterrence Strategy,” February 7, 2020,
78 ICAN and PAX, Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, 2021.
79 The U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021, November 2021, p. 90.
80 Ibid., p. 94.
81 “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference,” Foreign Ministry of China, November 4, 2021, t1918690.shtml.
82 The U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021, p. 163.
83 Hans Kristensen, “Area: More Silos, Tunnels, and Support Facilities,” Federation of American Scientists, February 24, 2021,
84 Jeffrey Lewis and Decker Eveleth, “Chinese ICBM Silos,” Arms Control Wonk, July 2, 2021, https://
85 Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen, “China Is Building a Second Nuclear Missile Silo Field,” Federation of American Scientists, July 26, 2021,
86 Bill Gertz, “China Building Third Missile Field for Hundreds of New ICBMs,” Washington Times, August 12, 2021,
87 Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “China’s Nuclear Missile Silo Expansion: From Minimum Deterrence to Medium Deterrence,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 1, 2021, https://
88 Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen “A Closer Look at China’s Missile Silo Construction,” Federation of American Scientists, November 2, 2021,
89 Kristensen and Korda, “China’s Nuclear Missile Silo Expansion.”
90 The U.S. Department of State, “Department Press Briefing,” July 1, 2021, briefings/department-press-briefing-july-1-2021/. The annual report on China’s military power published by the U.S. Defense Department indicated the estimate that “[t]he number of warheads on the [China’s] land-based ICBMs capable of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years.” The U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021, p. 60.
91 “China’s Nuclear Deterrence Buildup Cannot be Tied Down by the US,” Global Times, July 2, 2021,
92 Minnie Chan, “China’s New Nuclear Submarine Missiles Expand Range in US: Analysts,” South China Morning Post, May 2, 2021,
93 The U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021, p. 49.
94 Ibid., p. 163.
95 Ibid., p. 60.
96 Ibid., p. 93.
97 “China’s ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles Test Fired at Ships,” Yomiuri Shimbun, January 13, 2021, https://www. (in Japanese)
98 “Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of National Defense,” November 25, 2021, http://eng.mod.
99 “China Tests New Space Capability with Hypersonic Missile,” Financial Times, October 16, 2021,
100 “A Fractional Orbital Bombardment System with A Hypersonic Glide Vehicle?” Arms Control Wonk, October 18, 2021, ment-system-with-a-hypersonic-glide-vehicle/.
101 Chandelis Duster, “Top Military Leader Says China’s Hypersonic Missile Test ‘Went Around the World,’” CNN, November 18, 2021,
102 “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, October 18, 2021, 665403/t1915130.shtml.
103 Demetri Sevastopulo, “Chinese Hypersonic Weapon Fired a Missile over South China Sea,” Financial Times, November 22, 2021,
104 François Hollande, “Nuclear Deterrence—Visit to the Strategic Air Forces,” February 19, 2015, http:// html#Chapitre1.
105 “France Launches Program to Build New Generation of Nuclear Submarines,” Marine Link, February 19, 2021,; Timothy Wright and Hugo Decis, “Counting the Cost of Deterrence: France’s Nuclear Recapitalization,” Military Balance Blog, May 14, 2021, lisation.
106 Thomas Nilsen, “Sevmash to Lay Down Two More Borei-A Class Submarines in 2021,” The Barents Observer, January 13, 2021,
107 “Russia’s 1st Regiment of Avangard Hypersonic Missiles to Go on Combat Alert by Yearend,” Tass, August 10, 2021,
108 Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Russia Tests Hypersonic Zircon Missile: Growing Geopolitical Rivalries Will Continue to Drive the Development of Hypersonic and Other Lethal Weapons Systems,” The Diplomat, July 22, 2021,
109 “Russia Test-fires New Hypersonic Missile from Submarine,” AP, October 4, 2021, https://apnews. com/article/business-europe-russia-vladimir-putin-navy-a941853d791d8b57cc1a2bc39e9d4df4.
110 “Russian Navy Test-Fires Hypersonic Missile in the White Sea,” AP, November 29, 2021,
111 “Putin Says Russian Navy to Get Hypersonic Zircon Missiles in 2022,” Reuters, November 4, 2021,
112 Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Russian Nuclear Forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1, 2020,; “Russia’s Nuclear Cruise Missile is Struggling to Take Off, Imagery Suggests,” NPR, September 25, 2018, off-imagery-suggests.
113 Zachary Cohen, “New Satellite Images Show Russia May be Preparing to Test Nuclear Powered ‘Skyfall’ Missile,” CNN, August 19, 2021,
114 “Russia Starts Building Upgraded ‘Doomsday Plane’ – Reports,” Moscow Times, July 26, 2021, https://
115 United Kingdom, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, p. 76.
116 Democratic National Committee, “Renewing American Leadership,” 2020, where-we-stand/party-platform/renewing-american-leadership/.
117 Charles Richard, “Testimony,” before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, April 20, 2021.
118 Lindsey Heflin, “F-35A Complete 5th Generation Fighter Test Milestone with Refurbished B61-12 Nuclear Gravity Bombs,” The U.S. Air Force, October 6, 2021, play/Article/2801860/f-35a-complete-5th-generation-fighter-test-milestone-with-refurbished-b61-12- nu/.
119 “Warhead Modernization Activities Ensure the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Continues to Meet Military Requirements While Enhancing Safety and Security,” NNSA, December 2, 2021, https://www.
120 Oren Liebermann, “Latest US Military Hypersonic Test Fails,” CNN, October 22, 2021, https://
121 Mike Stone, “U.S. Successfully Tests Hypersonic Booster Motor in Utah,” Reuters, October 30, 2021,
122 See, for instance, Hans Kristensen, “NNSA Nuclear Plan Shows More Weapons, Increasing Costs, Less Transparency,” Federation of American Scientists, December 30, 2020, security/2020/12/nnsa-stockpile-plan-2020/.
123 Brett Tingley, “First Improved W88 Nuclear Warhead for Navy’s Trident Missiles Rolls Off the Assembly Line,” The Drive, July 13, 2021,
124 A U.S. government official explained that the W93 is not a completely new warhead but is based on an existing design and, therefore, does not need to be tested. Aaron Mehta, “Inside America’s Newly Revealed Nuclear Ballistic Missile Warhead of the Future,” Defense News, February 24, 2020, https://www. ssile-warhead-of-the-future/.
125 “India Tests Ballistic Missile with 5,000km Range,” Business Recorder, October 29, 2021, https://www.
126 “India’s SSBN Program — Challenges, Imperatives,” IndraStra, April 28, 2021, https://www.indrastra. com/2021/04/India-s-SSBN-Program-Challenges-Imperatives.html.
127 Rahul Bedi, “India Test-Launches New Agni-series Nuclear-capable Missile,” Janes, June 28, 2021,
128 Don Jacobson, “Israel Conducts Second Missile Test in 2 Months,” UPI, January 31, 2020, https:// 3481580486615/.
129 Asad Hashim, “Pakistan Successfully Tests Medium-range Missile,” Aljazeera, January 21, 2021,
130 “Pakistan’s Surface-to-Surface Missiles: Strategic Intent with Conventional Potential,” Quwa, November 15, 2021, nt-with-conventional-potential-2/.
131 Amber Afreen Abid, “Pakistan’s Test Firing of Shaheen-1A: Revalidating Minimum Credible Deterrence Posture – OpEd,” Eurasia Review, April 17, 2021,
132 “Great Programme for Struggle Leading Korean-style Socialist Construction to Fresh Victory,” KCNA, January 9, 2021,
133 “Academy of Defence Science Test-fires New-type Tactical Guided Projectile,” KCNA, March 26, 2021,
134 “Long-range Cruise Missiles Newly Developed by Academy of Defence Science Successfully Test-fired,” KCNA, September 13, 2021,
135 “Pak Jong Chon Guides Test Firing Drill of Railway-borne Missile Regiment,” KCNA, September 16, 2021, htttp://
136 “Hypersonic Missile Newly Developed by Academy of Defence Science Test-fired,” KCNA, September 29, 2021,
137 Vann H. Diepen, “Six Takeaways from North Korea’s ‘Hypersonic Missile’ Announcement,” 38 North, October 13, 2021,
138 “Academy of Defence Science Succeeds in Test-Launch of New Type SLBM,” KCNA, October 20, 2021,

< BackNext >