UN chief warns world is living in `shadow of nuclear catastrophe’
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday the world is living “in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe,” fueled by escalating tensions between the U.S., China and other nuclear powers.
The U.N. chief was speaking at a high-level meeting at the U.N. headquarters in New York to commemorate the recent International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
He said progress on ridding the world of nuclear weapons “has stalled and is at risk of backsliding."
Without naming any countries, Guterres said programs to modernize nuclear arsenals “threaten a qualitative nuclear arms race,” not to increase the number of weapons but to make them “faster, stealthier and more accurate.”
Guterres has previously expressed deep concern at the escalating disputes between Washington and Beijing.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia are also at a low point, while nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are feuding over Kashmir, and India just had a border skirmish with China.
Guterres also pointed to the only treaty constraining the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals -- the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia -- which is set to expire next year.
“It is imperative” that the two countries extend it without delay for the maximum five years, he said, waring that without a treaty there is an “alarming possibility of a return to unconstrained strategic competition.”
The secretary-general said the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or NPT, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
The five-year review of the NPT’s implementation was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic until next year and Guterres urged its 191 parties to use the extra time to strengthen the treaty, including making “tangible progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons."
At Friday’s virtual high-level meeting, 103 of the 193 U.N. member nations were scheduled to speak for two minutes each via video. But many spoke longer so only 79 delivered addresses, and the U.N. said it would post the rest.