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There are nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world — and Russia, U.S. hold more than 90%

Three decades after the end of the Cold War, the world is still awash in nuclear weapons.

The "nuclear club" — which includes the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — have about 15,850 nuclear weapons among them, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The institute said 1,800 of those weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert. Russia and the United States' arsenals combined make up more than 90% of nuclear weapons worldwide, it added.

There are other reasons to worry. North Korea has raced ahead with its development of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads amid threats from the country’s unpredictable leader, Kim Jong Un, and verbal clashes between him and President Trump.

Russian President Vladimir Putin added to the worries Thursday when he boasted his country has developed a nuclear missile with an unlimited range and completely immune to enemy intercept.

The Pentagon downplayed Putin’s bellicose words, saying the U.S. military is capable of defending the country against nuclear attack. “The American people should rest assured we are fully prepared,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White when asked about Putin’s remarks.

World leaders have attempted to limit nuclear proliferation. An agreement with Iran to suspend its nuclear weapons program has been hailed as progress by many arms control advocates. But the heated rhetoric and an increase in North Korean missile tests last year has raised fresh worries about a new arms race.

While the overall number of nuclear weapons has declined in recent years, nuclear powers — including the United States and Russia — are in the process of modernizing their arsenals and have no intention of giving them up, according to findings by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Still, Russia and the U.S. have agreed to the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms — the new START treaty that came into force in February 2011.

The United States, China, France, Russia and Britain are the only legally recognized nuclear weapons states under the 1968 international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The United States said its massive investment in modernizing its nuclear force is designed not to pose a threat to the world, but to strengthen its ability to deter others from launching a nuclear strike.

“We should never get into a place where we're in an even fight, we're in a fair fight,” Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said recently. “We should always be in a dominant position, because that allows us and our nation to reach out to our allies and do the things that we need to do in this world.”

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