UN chief: We’re just ‘one misunderstanding away from nuclear annihilation’

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

Guterres, speaking at the start of a conference in New York of countries belonging to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, said this was a “time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War,” pointing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and also “many other factors around the world.”

He called on countries to “reinforce and reinform” the treaty and urged them to continue working toward a world free of nuclear weapons, as this is the “only guarantee” that they will not be used.

The conference was supposed to take place two years ago but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The treaty entered into force in 1970 to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote nuclear disarmament as well as peaceful use of nuclear energy. Some 191 countries have signed up to the treaty, including the five nuclear states.

In a letter to the conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there can be “no winners” in a nuclear war and no such war should ever be started.