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As the United States, Britain, and France urged Russia to cease “its hazardous nuclear language and behavior,” the UN secretary general, António Guterres, issued a warning that a miscommunication may result in a 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) summit 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.
Guterres said at the NPT’s 10th review conference that mankind was only one misunderstanding or calculation away from a nuclear apocalypse today. The NPT is a global agreement that was signed in 1970 to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
“So far, we’ve been quite fortunate. But the chance is not a tactic. It also isn’t a safeguard against geopolitical tensions escalating into nuclear war, he continued, urging governments to “set humanity on a new course toward 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 conference, according to Guterres, is “an opportunity to strengthen” the treaty and “make it suitable for the frightening world around us.”
The secretary-general said that he will travel to Hiroshima to commemorate the anniversary of the US bombing of the Japanese city on August 6, 1945, and stated that eliminating nuclear weapons was the only assurance that they would never be used
"Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation."
— @antonioguterres says this week's nuclear non-proliferation conference is taking place at a critical juncture for world's collective peace & security. https://t.co/PHjQhSAqyx pic.twitter.com/RwiunF53KR
— United Nations (@UN) August 1, 2022
“At this time, there are around 13,000 nuclear weapons stored in arsenals around the globe. All of this is occurring as the risks of proliferation are rising and the barriers to escalation are becoming less effective, Guterres continued.
The US, China, Russia, Britain, and France, the five permanent members of the UN security council, committed to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in January.
A joint statement from the US, UK, and France on Monday reaffirmed their resolve, stating that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
The three also criticized Russia, which shortly after its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 said it had put its nuclear forces on alert, and urged Moscow to uphold its international obligations under the NPT.
“We call on Russia to discontinue its irresponsible and hazardous nuclear language and behavior following Russia’s unjustified and illegitimate war of aggression against Ukraine,” they added.
According to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Russia remained according to the “letter and spirit” of the pact and that there could be “no winners” in a nuclear conflict.
While several remarks concentrated on Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also criticized Iran and North Korea for continuing their “road of nuclear escalation” and “expanding their unlawful nuclear program… So, at a crucial time, we join together,” he remarked.
The majority of world's nations back a @nuclearban, and there's a UN treaty to do just that.
— Natalie Bennett (@natalieben) August 2, 2022
Joe Biden earlier urged China and Russia to start nuclear weapons control negotiations in a statement.
The pact that limits the intercontinental nuclear forces of the United States and Russia, known as New Start, is slated to expire in 2026. The US president reaffirmed that his administration was prepared to “expeditiously negotiate” a replacement.
The goal of the NPT is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, advance full disarmament, and foster cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The 191 members review the treaty every five years.
The parties were unable to agree on important topics at the most recent review meeting in 2015.
The world community has only grown more divided since then, bemoaned Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan. “The road to a world free of nuclear weapons has grown more difficult. Giving up is not an option, though.