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15. Nuclear arms control, non-proliferation and ballistic missile defence



I. Introduction

II. The US–North Korean Agreed Framework

III. UN inspections in Iraq

IV. Iran and nuclear proliferation concerns

V. International cooperation on nuclear safety and security

VI. Russian–US nuclear arms control

VII. Developments in the US ballistic missile defence programme

VIII. Conclusions


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In 2002 concerns about the viability of the nuclear non-proliferation regime moved to the fore of the nuclear arms control and disarmament agenda. There were signs that strains within the principal legal foundation of that regime, the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), were building up to a breakdown.



Two major developments during the year called into question the future of the non-proliferation regime. First, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) admitted in October that it had a secret uranium enrichment programme under way. The DPRK moved to reactivate the nuclear facilities which had been ‘frozen’ under the terms of a 1994 agreement with the USA and subsequently announced its intention to become the first state party to withdraw from the NPT. Second, it was revealed that Iran was constructing a number of hitherto undeclared nuclear facilities, including a uranium enrichment plant, which would give it a complete nuclear fuel cycle. These facilities did not contravene Iran’s NPT-mandated safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, the revelation of their existence gave rise to widespread suspicion that Iran was putting in place the infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons under the guise of a civil nuclear energy programme permitted by the NPT.



One of the most important questions that re-emerged during the year was how—and with what instruments—the international community should respond to states which deliberately violate their legally binding arms control commitments and obligations. An acrimonious debate erupted in the UN Security Council over the US-led push to authorize military action against Iraq to bring it into compliance with the obligations set out in previous Security Council resolutions. The resulting deadlock highlighted the US administration’s embrace of a robust counter-proliferation strategy, including the unilateral use of military force, and its mistrust of multilateral legal instruments.


During 2002 there was growing concern about the risks posed by the acquisition by terrorists of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. This gave rise to several new multilateral initiatives aimed at combating the risks of ‘leakage’ of weapons and materials of mass destruction from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. It also led to renewed attention to existing cooperative efforts to reinforce the technical chokepoint (i.e., the difficulty in acquiring weapon-usable fissile material) on which the NPT is based.


In May 2002 Russia and the USA signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). This marked a breakthrough in a strategic arms reduction process that had been deadlocked since the signing—and subsequent failure to enter into force—of the 1993 START II Treaty. Unlike cold war agreements which set out carefully balanced limits on strategic nuclear arms accompanied by detailed verification provisions, SORT gives the two parties unprecedented flexibility in implementing what amount to parallel, unilateral force reductions. At the same time, SORT marks a fundamental change in the nature of the arms control process. The treaty is one part of a more comprehensive bilateral ‘package deal’. This deal not only includes a strategic restraint component, but also extends beyond arms reductions to encompass ‘positive’ measures. These measures include improved political consultation and coordination, particularly with regard to combating terrorism and halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as increased economic and scientific cooperation.


In December 2002, President Bush announced that he had ordered the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency to begin deploying an initial missile defence system in 2004–2005 ‘to meet the near-term ballistic missile threat’ to the USA’s ‘homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies’. The announcement marked the first time that the Bush Administration had defined an initial BMD capability to protect US territory and committed to a specific deployment date. It followed in the wake of the USA’s formal withdrawal earlier in the year from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty). It provoked immediate, albeit relatively restrained, expressions of concern from China and Russia about the implications of the USA’s deployment decision for global stability. At the same time, however, Russia continued to press for inclusion in the missile defence plans of the USA.



Appendix 15A. World nuclear forces


Full text Appendix 15A [PDF].


Appendix 15B. Tables of operational military satellites


Full text Appendix 15B [PDF].



Shannon N. Kile (United States) is a Researcher on the SIPRI Project on Military Technology and International Security. He is the author of chapters in the SIPRI volume A Future Arms Control Agenda: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 118, 1999 (2001) and SIPRI Research Report no. 7, The Future of the Defence Industries in Central and Eastern Europe (1994) and a co-author (with Adam Daniel Rotfeld) of a chapter in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE Yearbook (1997). He has contributed to two SIPRI books on Russian security policy: Russia and Europe: The Emerging Security Agenda (1997) and Russia and Asia: The Emerging Security Agenda (1999) and is the author of the SIPRI Fact Sheet ‘Missile defence and the ABM Treaty: a status report’ (2001). He has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1995 on nuclear arms control.


Hans M. Kristensen (Denmark) is a nuclear weapons policy analyst and a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s nuclear programme. A former Senior Researcher with the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley, California, he is co-author of the NRDC Nuclear Notebook series in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His recent publications include ‘Preemptive posturing’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Sep./Oct. 2002), ‘The unruly hedge: cold war thinking at the Crawford summit’, Arms Control Today (Dec. 2001), The Matrix of Deterrence: US Strategic Command Force Structure Studies (Nautilus Institute, May 2001), and (with William Arkin) The Post Cold War SIOP and Nuclear Warfare Planning: A Glossary, Abbreviations, and Acronyms (National Resources Defense Council, 1999). He contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook in 2002.


Ted Molczan (Canada) is a technologist in the field of energy conservation. He has observed satellites and analysed their orbits for 35 years and his special area of interest is satellites for which official orbital elements are not published.


John Pike (United States) is Director of, a non-profit public policy group focused on defence, space and intelligence issues, which he founded in 2000.

Shannon N. Kile