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WMD Possessors and Aspirants

Five states are defined as nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

At least three more are de facto nuclear weapon possessors (the D-3):

These eight have the most advanced missile programmes and have also had, and in some cases may continue to have, biological and/or chemical weapons or programmes.

Several further states are viewed as of proliferation concern or have programmes which have been exposed and are now being addressed and dismantled. These include:

This section gives news, analyses or documentation relating to the possession, proliferation or aspirations to acquire nuclear, chemical or biological weapons by states or groups other than Britain and the United States, which are covered in separate detail. This replaces previously separate features on Iraq, South Asia and Russia, but provides links to past coverage of those states or regions.

Previous coverage from Disarmament Diplomacy


Iran's nuclear programme has been an issue of international concern for a number of years now and has also been the subject of five UN Security Council Resolutions [1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), and 1929 (2010)]. Despite early pledges from the Obama Administration of "vigorous" and "direct" nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the US-led approach to the situation has centred on the use of sanctions. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the US) have been stalled since January 2011 and Obama Adviser Gary Samore has made it clear that 'The ball is very much in Tehran's court'.  Despite setbacks due to cyberattacks, such as the Stuxsnet virus, Iran has continued to push forward with  its uranium enrichment programme and in May 2011 the IAEA, under Director-General Yukiya Amano, released its strongest ever report on Iran.

Acronym Coverage of Iran

Background Documents

Iran Proposals and Responses

UN Security Council Resolutions

See the Acronym Institute's Iran archive for further documents and analysis.

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North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, generally called North Korea) announced its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003 and conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006. In October 2008 a deal on verification was reached following North Korea's declaration on its nuclear programme (as agreed in the October 2007 agreement on 'Second Phase Actions' for implementing the 2005 Joint Statement on North Korea's nuclear programme). In return the US removed North Korea from the State Department's list of states sponsors of terrorism. Then in May 2009, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, just one month after it pulled out of the Six Party Talks which comprised South Korea, China, the US, Russia and Japan as well as North Korea. Tensions on the Korean Peninsular have been especially high since the March 2010 sinking by North Korea of a South Korean vessel killing 46 sailors. In November 2010 North Korea revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment plant, which although it had been long suspected, surprised observers by being more modern and advanced than expected. Media reports suggest that North Korea may have "weaponised" approximately 30 kg of plutonium - enough to make 4 or 5 nuclear warheads. Though it has a well developed missile programme and tests and markets ballistic missile technologies to several states that raise proliferation and security concerns, its nuclear tests and failures in its test programmes for the Taepo-dong long range ballistic missile have convinced most analysts that North Korea is not yet capable of launching a long range nuclear weapon. Although North Korea has indicated a willingness to restart the Six Party Talks, they remain stalled due to incompatible pre-conditions being imposed by Kim Jong Il's authoritarian regime on the one hand, and the Obama Administration on the other.

North Korea: Coverage in Disarmament Diplomacy

Government Documents and Statements

Key Documents

See Acronym's North Korea archive for previous coverage of the North Korea nuclear crisis including previous rounds of the six party talks.

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South Asia

In 2008, on the back of heavy lobbying from the George W Bush administration  and in spite of India's possession of nuclear weapons and its long-held refusal to sign the NPT, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed an exemption under which NSG members were able to engage in nuclear trade with India, paving the way for the controversial US-India nuclear trade deal. Since then Pakistan has sought equal treatment. Though this has been refused by the NSG, in 2010 China announced it would be building two new reactors in Pakistan. In February 2011 it was revealed that according to US intelligence estimates Pakistan, which seeks military parity with its Indian neighbour despite being much smaller in size and population, has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal to between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to play a prominent role in blocking agreement at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on a work programme that would enable negotiations to get underway on a fissile material cut-off treaty.

South Asia: Documents & Statements

South Asia: Coverage in Disarmament Diplomacy

Acronym Institute coverage of South Asia from 1998 - 2003 is available at:


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Russia: Documents & Statements

Russia continues to express concerns over US plans for missile defence - in April 2011, having long argued for a shared approach in developing missile defences, Russia stated its desire for dual control over a future missile defence shield. Whilst the US came under domestic pressure to discount the possibility, Russia warned that in the absence of an acceptable cooperation agreement, it would increase its nuclear stockpile, thereby reneging on the New START treaty it signed with the US in April 2010 (the previous one expired at the end of December 2009).

Previous Acronym Institute coverage of Russia is available at:

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France: Documents & Statements

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Libya: Documents & Analysis

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Iraq: Coverage in Disarmament Diplomacy

Iraq: Documents & Statements

Acronym Institute coverage of Iraq from 1998 - 2003 is available at:

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