The world's first nuclear weapons explosion on July 16, 1945 in New
Mexico, when the United States tested its first nuclear bomb. Not three
weeks later, the world changed.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima. It killed or wounded nearly 130,000 people.
Three days later, the United States bombed Nagasaki. Of the 286,00
people living there at the time of the blast, 74,000 were killed and
another 75,000 sustained severe injuries. Japan agreed to an
unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945; it also resulted in the end
of World War II.
In subsequent years, the United States, the Soviet Union and Great
Britain conducted several nuclear weapons tests. In 1954, President
Jawaharlal Nehru of India called for a ban on nuclear testing. It was
the first large-scale initiative to ban using nuclear technology for
In 1958, nearly 10,000 scientists presented to United Nations
Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold a petition that begged, “We deem it
imperative that immediate action be taken to effect an international
agreement to stop testing of all nuclear weapons.”
France exploded its first nuclear device in 1960 and China entered the
"nuclear arms club" in October 1964 when it conducted its first test.
The United States, Soviet Union and some sixty other countries signed a
treaty to seek the ends of the nuclear arms race and promote
disarmament on July 1, 1968. The treaty bars nuclear weapons states
from propogating weapons to other states and prohibits states without
nuclear weapons to develop or acquire nuclear arsenal. It permits the
use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It entered into force in
1970 and was extended indefinitely and unconditionally on May 11, 1995.
In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test: a subterranean
explosion of a nuclear device (not weapon). India declared it to be a
"peaceful" test, but it announced to the world that India had the
scientific know-how to build a bomb.
At this time, the five declared nuclear weapons states are the USA, USSR, UK, France and China.
In December, 1986, The South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone was put into effect.
American and North Korean delegations met in Geneva in autumn 1994 to
establish a framework to resolve nuclear issues in the Korean
peninsula. Under the agreement, North Korea would sign a treaty on the
non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in exchange for U.S. support in
building safe nuclear energy facilities and formal assurance against
the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. against North Korea.
Both sides agreed to take steps towards better political and economic
relations. In subsequent years, South Korea and Japan have invested
billions to help build safe nuclear energy plants in North Korea. By
2003, North Korea has cancelled this and all other international
agreements on non-proliferation.
The United Nations, on December 12, 1995, decreed an immediate ban on
all nuclear testing and urged disarmament with the vision of a world
free of nuclear weapons.
Later that month, ten Southeast Asian countries signed the Bankok
Treaty, establishing the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. In
Spring 1996, 43 African nations sign the Pelindaba Treaty establishing
the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.
On September 10, 1996, the United Nations, in a landslide vote, adopted
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and two weeks later, the United
States was the first to sign. (The U.S. Senate, however, rejected the
treaty three years later.)
On May 11, 1998, India shocked the world by exploding three nuclear
devices amounting to about six times the destructive power of the
American bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The next day, it tested two
more nuclear explosions. The world was stunned when Pakistan responded
with six nuclear arsenal tests of its own.
World leaders admonished the two long-time adversaries in breaking the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (put into force in 1970). The U.S.
imposed strict economic sanctions against both countries and lobbied
for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other countries to
do the same. The sanctions were lifted in 2001 when the U.S. needed
Pakistan and India's support to fight al Qaeda and other terrorist
cells in Afghanistan.
In 1998 North Korea alarmed Japan by test-firing a medium range-missile
(without weapons) over the Japanese mainland. The missile's apparent
range, some 1,000 kilometers or 600 miles, meant that any part of Japan
-- and by default any part of South Korea -- was within range of North
Korean weaponry. Japan is the only country ever to have been attacked
by nuclear weapons and anti-nuclear sentiment runs particularly deep.
In 2002, American President George W. Bush named Iran, Iraq and North
Korea as the Axis of Evil, in part due to U.S. suspicions of those
countries having weapons of mass destruction. Later that year,
unofficial reports suggest that North Korea has confirmed the existence
of nuclear arsenals, and intelligence reports indicate that the
dictatorial power will have enough plutonium to build five or six
nuclear bombs by May 2003.
On October 9, 2006 North Korea tested a nuclear weapon with the
approximated power of the Hiroshima bomb. North Korea announced to the
world that it has become the world's eighth declared nuclear weapons
state. Its missiles have the range to hit targets in South Korea, Japan
as well as U.S., Chinese, and Russian territories.
The United States is the only known country to have missles with range
to attack any target on earth, but over thirty countries have unmanned
planes that are undetected by missle defense systems, and can carry
nuclear, biological or other weapons of mass destruction.