Tue, 09 Aug 2022

As the United States, Britain and France urge Russia to stop "its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour," UN head Antonio Guterres has warned that a misunderstanding could spark global nuclear destruction.

At the opening of a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference in New York, Guterres warned that the world now faces "a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War".

Citing Russia's conflict with Ukraine and tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East, Guterres said he feared that crises "with nuclear undertones" could escalate.

"Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation," Guterres told the tenth review conference of the NPT, an international treaty that came into force in 1970 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"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," he added, calling on nations to "put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons."

Elimination is the only guarantee

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 26 August.

Guterres said the conference was "a chance to strengthen" the treaty and "make it fit for the worrying world around us.

"Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used," the secretary-general said, adding that he would visit Hiroshima for the anniversary of the 6 August 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city by the United States.

"Almost 13,000 nuclear weapons are now 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 said.

Originally published on RFI

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