United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that a misunderstanding could lead to nuclear destruction as the United States, Britain and France urged Russia to stop “its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior “.
Opening a major conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York, Guterres warned that the world was facing “a nuclear threat not seen since the height of the Cold War”.
Citing Russia’s war with Ukraine and tensions in the Korean peninsula and the Middle East, Guterres said he feared crises “with nuclear undertones” could escalate.
“Today humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear destruction,” Guterres told the 10th Review Conference of the NPT, an international treaty that came into effect in 1970 to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
“We have been extremely lucky so far. But happiness is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield against geopolitical tensions culminating in a nuclear conflict,” he added, calling on nations to “relaunch humanity in a new way.” path to a world without nuclear weapons”.
The meeting, held at the UN headquarters in New York, has been postponed several times since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Guterres said the conference was “an opportunity to strengthen the treaty” and “make it fit for the worrisome world around us”.
“Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee that they will never be used,” the secretary general said, adding that he would visit Hiroshima for the anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the Japanese city on August 6, 1945.
“Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are now held in arsenals around the world. All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are increasing and the barriers to prevent escalation are weakening,” Guterres added.
In January, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, China, Russia, Britain and France – had pledged to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
On Monday, the US, Britain and France reaffirmed their commitment in a joint statement, saying a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
The three also targeted Russia – which announced it had placed its nuclear forces on readiness shortly after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 – and urged Moscow to honor its international obligations under the NPT. .
“After Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine, we call on Russia to cease its irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior,” they said.
President Vladimir Putin insisted that Russia remain true to the “letter and spirit” of the treaty and that there could be “no winners” in a nuclear war, according to the Kremlin.
While many speeches have focused on Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also denounced North Korea, which “continues to expand its illegitimate nuclear program”, and Iran, which “remains on a path of nuclear escalation… And so come us together at a critical time,” he said.
Earlier, Joe Biden in a statement called on Russia and China to enter into talks on nuclear arms control.
The US president reiterated that his administration was ready to “negotiate quickly” a replacement for New Start, the treaty covering the intercontinental nuclear forces in the United States and Russia, which expires in 2026.
The NPT, which is reviewed every five years by the 191 signatories, aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, promote complete disarmament and promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
At the last review conference in 2015, the parties could not agree on content.
“Since then, divisions within the international community have only grown,” complained Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “A path to a world without nuclear weapons has become even more difficult. Yet giving up is not an option.”