2018 Global Outlook: Nuclear proliferation threat is exaggerated

The head of U.S. diplomacy is accompanied by the U.S. ambassador to China at a Beijing airport
Beijing, Sept. 30, 2017: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) arrives for talks with China on how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs (source: dpa)
  • The emerging U.S. strategy toward North Korea focuses on trying to limit the regime’s threat as a nuclear power
  • While North Korea and possibly Iran advance their nuclear programs, this is not likely to lead to major proliferation
  • The existing nuclear powers are modernizing their deterrents, but only China probably plans to expand its nuclear arsenal

A lot of alarmist news, hyperbolic tweets and inflammatory declarations with regard to the global nuclear arms proliferation were made in 2017. Even so, the international community is unlikely to see dramatic changes in this area soon.

Great power relations, advances in missile defense systems and regional stability are all making accelerated nuclear proliferation less likely. At the same time, prospects for significant nonproliferation or denuclearization initiatives are dim.

While the size of the nuclear club is unlikely to shrink in the near future, the odds of nuclear proliferation expanding globally remain low. The most significant threats remain North Korea and Iran.

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