UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dire warning that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
He claimed that conflicts in the Middle East and Asia were already “edging towards catastrophe.” He also mentioned the Ukraine and Korean peninsula crises as potential flashpoints.
Mr Guterres told ministers, officials, and diplomats that the meeting is taking place at a “critical juncture for our collective peace and security” and “at a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.”
He made the remarks at the start of a month-long review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and claimed that the lack of nuclear disasters thus far was largely due to chance.
‘We’ve been extraordinarily lucky thus far,’ he said. ‘However, luck is not a strategy.’
He described the conference as “an opportunity to hammer out the measures that will help avoid certain disasters and to put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Mr Guterres, on the other hand, warned that ‘geopolitical weapons are reaching new highs,’ that nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are in global arsenals, and that countries seeking ‘false security’ are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on ‘doomsday weapons.’
The Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, has had the widest adherence of any arms control agreement, with 191 countries as members.
Under its terms, the five original nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, and France – agreed to negotiate the eventual elimination of their arsenals, while nations without nuclear weapons agreed not to acquire them in exchange for the assurance of being able to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
India and Pakistan, which did not sign the NPT, eventually obtained the bomb. North Korea ratified the agreement but later announced its withdrawal. Non-signatory Israel is suspected of possessing a nuclear arsenal, but neither confirms nor denies this.
‘Future generations are counting on your commitment to step back from the abyss,’ he told the ministers and diplomats. ‘This is our moment to meet this fundamental test and lift the cloud of nuclear annihilation once and for all.’