Nuclear weapons in the southern hemisphere

Nov 2017
Geneva, Switzerland
We know that Brazil and Argentina had a type of arms race that was resolved with the countries reaching a joint cooperation agreement; South Africa has given up its nuclear weapon, Indonesia has had a nuclear program but it has never gone forward and Australia has had something similar.
So I ask why no country in the southern hemisphere ever had a real nuclear program and an arsenal that reached the level of China and India?


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
For the same reasons that the Southern Hemisphere is less populous, less wealthy, and less technologically developed than the Northern Hemisphere. There's at least one other thread exploring that question, so I won't go into that here. It takes a certain amount of wealth and technical sophistication to build a nuclear weapon. Most countries in the Southern Hemisphere don't have that kind of wealth or technology. Wealth also has a way of creating rivalries which can motivate the development of nuclear weapons.

Australia could probably afford to build a nuke and they could develop the technology, but they don't have a land neighbor. New Zealand is not a threat to Australia. Indonesia and the Philippines? Not a big enough threat to justify nuclear weapons.

Argentina and Brazil is probably the biggest rivalry in the Southern Hemisphere that could lead to nuclear weapons, and I believe both countries had nuclear programs in the 1970s, but in recent decades that rivalry seems to have faded. Argentina is no longer the threat to Brazil that it used to be.

You already mentioned South Africa. The Southern Hemisphere has been lucky so far to have avoided nuclear weapons.