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An entrance to one of India's missile test ranges. Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

For all the attention North Korea is getting, there’s a web of nuclear threats around the world that risk setting off an arms race all on their own — even if the North Korean threat goes away.

The big picture: It’s worth taking the time to focus on the other standoffs. Heightened risk is not a certainty that nuclear conflict breaks out, but the web is tangled enough that a spark of conflict could have wide-ranging global consequences.

Iran

Iran began increasing its uranium enrichment following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and it may not remain in the deal with other countries much longer. Most of the incentive to remain in the deal came from economic benefits of doing business with the United States — and Europe alone will have trouble enticing Iran to stay in the deal.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis have said they would consider making nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear weapons program. And Saudi Arabia has been seeking U.S. help in starting a nuclear program, even though Riyadh hasn’t accepted terms of uranium enrichment that would prevent the program from escalating beyond peaceful aims. Israel has gotten involved in the conversation in an attempt to prevent a potential arms race in the region.

China

Its nuclear policy states that it would only use nuclear weapons in response to an attack — but analysts close to the Chinese government fear that the U.S. National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review frame China as a potential target for the U.S. as a primary rival on the world stage. And China has been working to catch up to the U.S. in the meantime.

India, Israel, and Pakistan

These three countries never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which was drawn up as a way to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. And they each have nuclear arsenals.

  • Pakistan and India’s nuclear tension and arms race goes all the way back to the signing of the NPT in 1968‚ and their rivalry goes back even farther, to the partition of British India in 1947. According to the Brookings Institution, the cascade of geopolitical influence is dizzying in this case, too: Pakistan responds to India’s moves in the nuclear realm, and India responds to both Pakistan and China. And China in turn, responds to India and the U.S. This circle of tension has kept the region nearly on the brink of nuclear conflict since the 1960s.
  • Israel has maintained its nuclear weapons arsenal to keep up with the possibility that Saudi Arabia and Iran could become nuclear states, although it has kept a “strategic ambiguity” about it, neither confirming nor denying its existence. It’s believed that Israel began its program in the 1950s and that its weapons can reach Libya, Iran, and Russia, creating potential flash points there.
A few other powers…
Countries that had nuclear weapons/programs
  • Libya gave up its nuclear weapons in 2003. Many analysts believe Libya’s experience giving up nuclear weapons and Muammar Gadhafi’s downfall following the abandonment is scaring North Korea’s Kim Jong-un away from denuclearization.
  • Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine had nuclear weapons at one time following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but returned them to Russia.
  • Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan all also abandoned nuclear weapons programs.
  • South Africa developed nuclear warheads but dismantled them before joining the NPT in the 1990s.
  • Iraq dismantled its nuclear weapons program for UN inspectors after the Persian Gulf War.
Go deeper:

Go deeper

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Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of US adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about a third are fully vaccinated, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still on the rise, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during Friday's White House COVID-19 briefing. With cases in many states being driven by variants, public health officials have emphasized the need to ramp up vaccinations.

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Israeli intel agencies believe Vienna talks will lead to U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal

Photo: DEBBIE HILL/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli military intelligence and senior officials in the Mossad briefed a meeting of the nation's security cabinet that talks in Vienna between Iran and other world powers will lead to the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, two officials who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is very concerned about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal and is trying to convince the Biden administration not to take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

Latino community of 13-year-old killed by police in Chicago reels after shooting

A small memorial of flowers and candles to Adam Toledo in Chicago. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Residents of Little Village, a well-known and predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, are grieving the death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican American boy from the neighborhood who was shot and killed by a police officer on March 29, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Adam Toledo's killing shines a spotlight on police shootings of Latinos, who are killed by law enforcement at the second-highest rate after Black Americans, according to data from the Washington Post.