UN chief ‘encouraged’ by first statement from key nuclear armed States

The United Nations

The Secretary-General, António Guterres, has welcomed a joint statement issued on Monday by five nuclear armed States on the prevention of nuclear war and the avoidance of the arms race.

For the first time, the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, issued a statement about avoiding an arms race and not targeting each other or at any other State.

The five countries, also permanent members of the UN Security Council (commonly known as the P5) said they believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.

‘Need to comply’

In a statement issued by his Spokesperosn, the Secretary-General appreciated the recognition of the need to comply with the bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments.

Mr. Guterres also highlighted the States’ obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) related to nuclear disarmament.

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an NPT review that was due to begin on Tuesday has been postponed until August. The statement from the P5 was issued following news of the postponement.

The UN chief said he was encouraged by the commitment to pursue measures to prevent nuclear war, consistent with his long-standing call for dialogue and cooperation. He looks forward to more details about future initiatives, the statement adds.

Mr. Guterres also took the opportunity to restate that “the only way to eliminate all nuclear risks is to eliminate all nuclear weapons.”

He concluded by reiterating his willingness to work with all Member States to achieve this goal “as soon as possible.”

‘Threat growing by the year’

The development follows a warning from the Secretary-General at the end of last year over the grave danger posed by the 13,000 nuclear weapons currently believed to be held by a handful of countries.

In an opinion article published internationally, Mr. Guterres said this threat is growing by the year and “nuclear annihilation” is “just one misunderstanding or miscalculation away”.

Mr. Guterres insisted that the NPT nuclear weapons treaty remains the “main hope to reverse” the global arms race, before urging bold action on six fronts.

First, Member States should chart a path forward on nuclear disarmament; next, they should agree new measures of transparency and dialogue, third, they should address “simmering nuclear crises” in the Middle East and Asia and fourth, strengthen existing bodies that support non-proliferation, including the UN atomic energy agency (IAEA).

Mr. Guterres also called on countries to promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology for medical and other uses, which he said was one reason why the NPT had won the support of non-nuclear-weapons States.

Finally, the world’s people – and especially its young people – needed to hear that eliminating nuclear weapons is the only way to guarantee that they will never be used. 

UN News Release. More on this here.