UN head Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world faced ‘a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War’ and was just ‘one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.’
‘We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,’ Guterres said at the start of a conference of countries belonging to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
‘Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,’ he said, calling on nations to ‘put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.’
Guterres’s comments came at the opening of the Tenth Review Conference of the NPT at the UN headquarters in New York, an international treaty that came into force in 1970 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) where he warned ‘we have been extraordinarily lucky so far’
Guterres’s comments came at the opening of the Tenth Review Conference of the NPT at the UN headquarters in New York, an international treaty that came into force in 1970 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons
The meeting, held at the UN’s headquarters in New York, has been postponed several times since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will run until August 26.
Guterres said the conference was ‘a chance to strengthen’ the treaty and ‘make it fit for the worrying world around us,’ citing Russia’s war in Ukraine and tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East.
‘Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used,’ the secretary-general implored, adding that he would visit Hiroshima for the anniversary of the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city by the United States.
‘Almost 13,000 nuclear weapons are now being held in arsenals around the world. All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are growing and guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening,’ Guterres added.
In January, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – had pledged to prevent the further dissemination of nuclear weapons.
At the last review conference in 2015, the parties were unable to reach agreement on substantive issues.
And the threat of nuclear proliferation is only growing, with Iran reported to have enough uranium to build ‘one, if not two’ bombs, an ex-US diplomat and nuclear weapons expert Robert Joseph warned.
Putin said Monday: ‘There can be no winners in nuclear war, it should never be started’ despite rattling the nuclear sabre multiple times since he launched his invasion of Ukraine
US President Joe Biden called on Russia and China to demonstrate their commitment to limiting nuclear arms
Meanwhile, the United States and its nuclear allies rebuked Russia on Monday for ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ talk about possibly deploying nuclear weapons as a review of the keystone nuclear treaty opened at the United Nations.
‘Following Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine, we call on Russia to cease its irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour, to uphold its international commitments,’ said the United States, France and Britain in a statement.
‘Nuclear weapons, for as long as they exist, should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We condemn those who would use or threaten to use nuclear weapons for military coercion, intimidation, and blackmail,’ they said.
The call was issued as concerns are rising about the spread of nuclear technology, especially in Iran and North Korea, and China’s rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal.
While five leading nuclear powers are among the 191 states party to the pact, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are not.
‘The NPT has reduced the risk of a devastating nuclear war, and further reduction of that risk must be a priority for all NPT states parties and for this Review Conference,’ the US-France-Britain statement said.
They said that Iran, currently in negotiations to limit its nuclear development, ‘must never develop a nuclear weapon,’ and called on North Korea to halt its nuclear-related tests and launches.
In a separate statement US President Joe Biden called on Russia and China to demonstrate their commitment to limiting nuclear arms.
Russia should demonstrate its willingness to renew a separate bilateral nuclear arms reduction pact, the New START Treaty, when it expires in 2026, Biden said.
‘My administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START,’ he said.
‘But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith. And Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and constitutes an attack on fundamental tenets of international order.’
Biden said China meanwhile has a responsibility ‘to engage in talks that will reduce the risk of miscalculation and address destabilizing military dynamics.’
‘There is no benefit to any of our nations, or for the world, to resist substantive engagement on arms control and nuclear non-proliferation,’ Biden said.
‘The health of the NPT has always rested on meaningful, reciprocal arms limits between the United States and Russian Federation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to work together to uphold our shared responsibility to ensure strategic stability,’ Biden said.
‘The world can be confident that my administration will continue to support the NPT and seek to strengthen the nonproliferation architecture that protects people everywhere.’