Why Countries Build Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century | Flashpoints | The Diplomat

The fact that conventional military power is the strongest factor driving nuclear proliferation should guide how we think about proliferation threats in the future. For instance, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, its neighbors will be unlikely to follow suit. Not only do these states lack the necessary technical capacity, but they have little to fear from Iran’s nearly non-existent power projection capabilities.

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On the other hand, the rise in China’s conventional military strength makes it likely that Eastern Asia will be the region where the most potent proliferation risks emanate from. Countries with territorial disputes with China—first and foremost, Japan— will have the strongest motivation to build the bomb. Unfortunately, for non-proliferation advocates, many of China’s neighbors—including Japan and South Korea— already have robust civilian nuclear programs. This breakout capability will only make it more tempting for policymakers to order a mad dash for the bomb.

Why Countries Build Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century | Flashpoints | The Diplomat