Progress towards Nuclear-Free World ‘in Reverse’, Secretary-General Warns in Remarks for International Day

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the General Assembly commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, in New York today:

The elimination of nuclear weapons has been the United Nations highest disarmament priority from day one.  We strive for a world free of nuclear weapons because we know these weapons pose a unique and potentially existential threat to our planet.  We know any use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Much progress has been made in reducing the danger of nuclear weapons — largely under the leadership of the nuclear‑weapon States, especially those possessing the world’s largest arsenals.  Sadly, I fear that not only has that progress come to a halt, it is going in reverse.

Relations between nuclear‑armed States are mired in mistrust.  Dangerous rhetoric about the utility of nuclear weapons is on the rise.  A qualitative nuclear arms race is under way.  The painstakingly constructed arms control regime is fraying.  Divisions over the pace and scale of disarmament are growing.

I worry that we are slipping back into bad habits that will once again hold the entire world hostage to the threat of nuclear annihilation.  With last month’s expiration of the landmark Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, the world lost an invaluable brake on nuclear war.

I strongly encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so‑called “New Start” agreement to provide stability and the time to negotiate future arms control measures.

I also repeat my call on all States parties to work together at the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to ensure the Non‑Proliferation Treaty remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals: preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Today serves [as] an important reminder of the imminent threat of nuclear weapons and the need to find common solutions.  One key priority of the disarmament agenda I launched last year is to help States return to unity in preventing the use of nuclear weapons and bringing about their elimination.

There are many pathways to a world free of nuclear weapons.  The Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime.  The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the concerns of many States about the growing threat of nuclear weapons.  And the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty remains a long‑overdue measure to prevent the qualitative and quantitative development of nuclear weapons.

Our focus must be on taking steps in eliminating nuclear weapons and doing so in good faith.  I once again call on all States to fully implement their commitments related to the non‑proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons.  Failure to do so will only further undermine the regime.

I also call on those States possessing nuclear weapons to engage in the urgent dialogue needed to prevent their use and agree on near‑term practical steps in nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear weapons present an unacceptable danger to humanity.  Let us not forget that the only real way to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons is to eliminate nuclear weapons themselves.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.