United Nations, Aug 1 (EFE).- The United Nations held a landmark high-level meeting at its New York headquarters on Monday to review the 1970 treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and, ultimately, to phase out nuclear weapons altogether.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dire warning in his address to the UN, saying that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” referring to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine – a bitter and bloody war that it still ongoing – even as Washington, London and Paris are urging Russia to halt its “dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior.”
In speeches at the session, the US, Japan and Germany also discussed the danger of issuing nuclear threats and “saber-rattling,” as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia’s recent playing of the nuclear card to dissuade other nations from involving themselves to back Ukraine in its fight to stave off the Russian invasion.
The session was convened so that UN member states could discuss and review progress, as well as agreeing to further steps to implement, the so-called Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is the 10th such session convened by the UN to review the treaty, which entered into force in 1970.
Saying that the world is facing nuclear danger “not seen since the height of the Cold War,” Guterres mentioned the war in Ukraine, rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, along with nuclear saber-rattling by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as well as tensions in the Middle East, particularly given that Iran now says it can produce an atomic weapon.
“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor it is a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,” Guterres said, adding that countries must “put humanity on a new path” to a nuclear-free world and adding that the conference is a chance to “strengthen” the NPT, noting that “eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee that they will never be used.”
The United States is the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons in wartime, dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese cities to bring about the end of World War II in August 1945. At the time, the US was the only nation in the world to possess nuclear devices, but in the following years Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and possibly other nations, have developed and/or acquired nuclear weapons.
Guterres said that there are approximately 13,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the world’s nuclear nations.
US President Joe Biden has called on Moscow and Beijing to sit down with Washington for new arms control talks, saying that he is ready to “expeditiously negotiate” an agreement to replace the New START pact – due to expire in 2026 – which limits the number of nuclear weapons the US and Russia may possess.
That proposal, however, has been received coldly by Moscow, who ostensibly questions Washington’s will to engage in meaningful talks.
At the UN session, the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Beatrice Fihn, said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created greater division among the world’s nations and increased the probabilities that nuclear weapons will spread and might even be used.
At the same time, the five official nuclear states under the NPT – the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – are violating their obligation to disarm and are increasing the risk of a catastrophic nuclear war, she said Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi, of Argentina, said Monday at the meeting that the situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been under the control of Russian invasion forces since March, is getting more dangerous and insisted that Moscow allow experts access to the facility to prevent a tragedy.
Saying that the IAEA needs the support of everyone to ensure that occurs, Grossi noted that he has been ready for two months to head a team of experts in traveling to Ukraine to analyze the situation at the plant, which the US accuses Russia of using as a military base from which to launch attacks on Ukrainian forces, knowing that Kyiv will not attack the Russian forces occupying plant for fear of damaging one of the nuclear reactors or releasing nuclear fuel stored there.
In the case of Iran, Grossi said that the IAEA needs to recover full access to that country’s nuclear facilities if Tehran wants to offer credible guarantees that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, as it has claimed.
On Monday, Tehran had said that it now has the ability to produce a nuclear bomb, although it added that it has no intention of doing so.
Regarding North Korea, he said that the IAEA is ready to return to that country after reaching an agreement with Pyongyang, after being absent from there for 13 years during which the regime has continued to expand its nuclear capabilities.
The UN conference, which had been postponed on several occasions since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be under way until August 26. The UN signatories – which include most of the world’s countries – review the pact every five years, but at the last review in 2015 they were unable to agree on key issues.