UN chief warns of ‘nuclear annihilation’

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UN head Antonio Guterres warned Monday that a misunderstanding could spark nuclear destruction as the United States, Britain and France urged Russia to stop “its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour.”

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

“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.

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.

“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.

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.

– ‘Need to act’ –

“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,” they said.

The US leader reiterated in a statement that his administration is ready to “expeditiously negotiate” a replacement to New START, the treaty capping intercontinental nuclear forces in the United States and Russia, which is set to expire in 2026.

At the last review conference in 2015, the parties were unable to reach agreement on substantive issues.

“And the NPT recognizes this,” she added. “It’s the reason that the treaty exists. And now states, parties more than ever need to act.”

Originally published as UN chief warns of ‘nuclear annihilation’


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