As the United States, Britain, and France urged Russia to stop “its hazardous nuclear rhetoric and behavior,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning that a miscommunication may result in nuclear war.
Guterres cautioned that the world faced “a nuclear risk not seen since the height of the Cold War” at the start of a significant nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference in New York.
Guterres cited the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the tensions in the Middle East, and the Korean peninsula as reasons for his concern that crises “with nuclear overtones” could worsen.
“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Guterres told the 10th 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.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the meeting, which takes place at the UN’s headquarters in New York, to be postponed numerous times since 2020. The event runs through August 26.
The conference, according to Guterres, is “an opportunity to strengthen” the treaty and “make it suitable for the frightening world around us.”
“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 is 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.
On Monday, America, Britain and France reaffirmed their commitment in a joint statement, saying a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”