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By George Perkovich and James M. Acton, editors

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The United States is the primary link. It features among the security concerns of actors in each of the regional clusters in which new balances will be necessary to induce states to reduce and subsequently eliminate their nuclear armouries. The US is key in the China–Taiwan scenario. It also has the responsibility for reassuring Japan in the face of growing Chinese 36 | George Perkovich and James M. Acton power. Russia will be interested in eliciting reassurances about US competition on its periphery and US conventional and space power — reassurances which Washington cannot easily provide to the extent that it also seeks to protect the interests of Russia’s neighbours.

India continues to modernise and expand its nuclear-weapons-production infrastructure, its fissile-material and weapons stockpiles, and its delivery systems. Yet India does not evince an arms-race mentality. Its leadership generally shows restraint, and gives the sense that nuclear weapons are regrettable political weapons of last resort, not militarily useful instruments. India does not deploy nuclear weapons on alert; it maintains its nuclear warheads apart from delivery systems. It insists that it would never use nuclear weapons first, though it qualifies this commitment in the case of responses to chemical- or biological-weapons attack.

Needless to say, if North Korea refuses to cooperate, either in disclosing its nuclear record or, most importantly, in dismantling all of its weapons and related production capability, this would set a floor below which the other nuclear-weapons states would not reduce their own arsenals. The case of Iran tests a number of parts of the international system that must be strengthened to build confidence that regional and global nuclear-weapons prohibitions would be feasible. Iran was caught violating its IAEA safeguards agreement.

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