United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that a misunderstanding could trigger nuclear destruction, as the United States, Britain and France have urged Russia to stop “its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior “.
Opening a key conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York, Guterres warned that the world faced “a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.
Citing Russia’s war with Ukraine and tensions on the Korean peninsula and the Middle East, António Guterres said he feared crises “with nuclear overtones” could escalate.
“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Guterres said at the 10th review conference of the NPT, an international treaty that entered 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 against geopolitical tensions leading to nuclear conflict,” he added, calling on the nations to “put humanity on a new path to a world free of nuclear weapons”.
The meeting, held at UN headquarters in New York, has been postponed several times since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
António Guterres said the conference was “a chance to strengthen” the treaty and “adapt it to the restless world around us”.
“The elimination of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee that they will never be used,” the secretary-general said, adding that he would travel to Hiroshima on the anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the Japanese city on August 6, 1945. .
“Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are currently held in arsenals around the world. All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are increasing and the safeguards to prevent escalation are weakening,” added António Guterres.
In January, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – pledged to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.
On Monday, the United States, Britain and France reaffirmed their commitment in a joint statement, saying a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
The three men also took aim at Russia – which announced that it had placed its nuclear forces on high alert shortly after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine – and urged Moscow to honor its international commitments under the NPT.
“Following 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 has insisted that Russia remains faithful to the “letter and spirit” of the treaty and that there can be “no winners” in a nuclear war, according to the Kremlin.
While many speeches focused on Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also denounced North Korea, which “continues to expand its illegal nuclear program”, and Iran, which “stays on the path of nuclear escalation… And so we come together.” at a critical time,” he said.
Earlier, in a statement, Joe Biden called on Russia and China to begin nuclear arms control talks.
The US president reiterated that his administration was ready to “quickly negotiate” a replacement for New Start, the treaty capping intercontinental nuclear forces in the United States and Russia, which is due to expire in 2026.
The NPT, which the 191 signatories review every five years, aims to prevent the spread 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 were unable to reach agreement on substantive issues.
“Since then, the division within the international community has only grown,” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “The road to a world without nuclear weapons has become even more difficult. However, giving up is not an option.