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Swedish watchdog sets hopes for arms control on next US administration

Swedish watchdog sets hopes for arms control on next US administration

A new administration in Washington could lead to progress in global arms control, irrespective of who wins the U.S. presidential election, a Swedish think tank said Monday.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said new agreements on reduced weaponry depend largely on the United States _ the world's biggest arms spender _ which used more on weapons in 2007 than any other year since World War II.
The presumptive presidential nominees of the major political parties have both said they intend to reduce America's nuclear arsenal, Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told reporters.
The two candidates also promised to "give serious consideration to putting forward the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for Senate ratification," Gill added.
A U.S. signature on the treaty could help could pave the way for eight other remaining states, including China, to ratifying the pact, the research institute said. The treaty will not come into force until all 44 states that participated in the 1996 disarmament conference sign it.
The Republican candidate, John McCain, has said he would take another look at the test ban treaty, which he opposed in 1999. His Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, has said he would make ratifying the treaty a priority.
McCain and Obama both have proposed nuclear arms cuts in concert with other powers, and have ruled out unilateral disarmament. But there are differences between the two.
"Whereas Senator McCain has made the remark that we need to reduce our nuclear arsenals ... Obama has actually said that he would aim for a world free of nuclear weapons," Gill said.
In its annual report, the institute said global weapons spending was up 6 percent last year _ at US$1.3 trillion (euro860 billion) _ over 2006, but that there were hopes for increased arms control because of "a broadening consensus ... that more serious and effective arms control and disarmament measures" were needed.
Gill said new steps in arms control should include a renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia in 2009 and the Strategic Offensive Forces Reduction Treaty in 2012. An international nonproliferation conference in 2010 should add pressure on nuclear states to disarm, he said.
The peace research institute's report said the United States spent US$547 billion (euro351 billion) on weapons, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2006 _ and 45 percent of the global total.
Britain was next with US$59.7 billion (euro38.28 billion), followed by China, which pushed past France into third place with US$58.3 billion (euro37.4 billion), the report said.
Regionally, Eastern Europe increased military spending the most, mainly because of high spending by Russia, which spent US$35.4 billion (euro22.7 billion) on weaponry, up slightly from US$34.7 billion (euro22.2 billion).
In December, Moscow suspended its participation in the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which the research institute said posed the greatest challenge yet to the treaty, which limits the number of conventional weapons on the continent.
The institute also called for greater legal powers to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to compel nuclear states adhere to nonproliferation obligations.
"The IAEA needs to have enhanced investigational powers to be able to deal with situations where states are suspected of doing secret nuclear weapons work, but where there is no direct connection to safeguarded nuclear material," Shannon Kile, a nuclear researcher with the institute said. These powers, she said, should include the right to demand documentation from Iran.
The Swedish think tank said the world's eight nuclear powers together had more than 25,000 nuclear warheads at the beginning of 2008, of which more than 10,000 were available for delivery by missiles and aircraft.
It did not include North Korea, saying it could not verify that North Korea has "weaponized" its nuclear capability.
Russia had 5,189 operational warheads in January 2008, while the U.S. had 4,075 and both countries were developing new weapons as they modernized their forces, the report said.
Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan were also developing new missile systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons, the peace institute said.
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Updated : 2021-03-02 01:20 GMT+08:00