nuclear 18 March 2021

UK plan to increase warhead stockpile ‘in breach of NPT’ say disarmament groups

The UK government has announced that it may lift the current cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads by 40 percent, as part of a broad defence and foreign policy overhaul that includes the use of ‘Magnitsky-style’ sanctions for human rights violations and the creation of ‘enabling environments’ for emerging technologies.

The Integrated Review 2021, announced on 16 March, raises the UK’s self-imposed limit on the number of nuclear warheads to 260, reversing a 2010 plan to reduce the stockpile to 180. It also says that the UK will shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific region and do more on the ‘systemic challenge’ of China.

Its decision to lift the overall cap on the nuclear warhead stockpile, it says, is justified by the ‘evolving security environment’ since the reductions were pledged in 2010.

But critics say Britain could be in violation of its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (‘NPT’).

‘Deeply disappointing to see Britain end its nuclear weapons reduction policy and instead join the nuclear arms race by increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile,’ tweeted Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project.

He said, ‘This will put Britain in violation of its NPT Article 6 obligations,’ which call for a cessation of the arms race and for complete disarmament. In 2015, the UK pledged its commitment to Article 6 obligations.

Meanwhile, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (‘ICAN’) said that Britain could face censure at the upcoming NPT Review conference, planned for August.