New Powers on the Nuclear Scene
Then there are the changes in the world's political lineup. Traditionally, five nations used to make up the nuclear club: Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States. However, it is generally recognized that other countries too have gone nuclear. India and Pakistan, for example, recently conducted nuclear tests that sparked fears of an intense arms race in Southeast Asia. Other nations suspected of having nuclear programs include Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. More than 180 nations have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which went into effect in 1970. But to date, a number of powers widely suspected of hiding their nuclear ambitions have not signed it.
Reports Asiaweek: "Nuclear proliferation experts still believe that the real threat comes from the growing number of countries whose leaders would like to have their finger on the nuclear trigger." Some observers feel that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will simply not be able to stop governments that are determined, despite penalties, to get the technology and materials they need to go nuclear on the sly. James Clapper, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, predicted: "By the turn of the century we could see numerous countries with the capability to mate a [chemical, biological, or nuclear] warhead with an indigenously produced missile."
Nor is it likely that all nations will succumb to pressure to ban nuclear testing. When a number of nations were lobbied to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, an editorial in Asiaweek observed: "It is fine for the Americans or the Europeans to preach the gospel of test bans, since they have already detonated enough nuclear devices to be able to sit back on the information they have collected."