Disarmament Now Only Viable Path to Vanquish Senseless, Suicidal Shadow of Nuclear War, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Outlining Six Steps for Non-Proliferation

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the UN Security Council’s open debate on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, in New York today:

I thank the Government of Japan for convening the Council around the vital issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Japan knows better than any country on earth the brutal cost of nuclear carnage.  But almost eight decades after the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons still represent a clear and present danger to global peace and security.

When I launched the Disarmament Agenda in 2018, I warned that:  “When each country pursues its own security without regard for others, we create global insecurity that threatens us all.”

Today, we meet at a time when geopolitical tensions and mistrust have escalated the risk of nuclear warfare to its highest point in decades.  The Doomsday Clock is ticking loudly enough for all to hear.  From academics and civil society groups, calling for an end to the nuclear madness.  To Pope Francis, who calls the possession of nuclear arms “immoral”.

To young people across the globe worried for their future, demanding change.  To the hibakusha, the brave survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — among our greatest living examples of speaking truth to power — delivering their timeless message of peace.  To Hollywood, where Oppenheimer brought the harsh reality of nuclear doomsday to vivid life for millions around the world.

Humanity cannot survive a sequel to Oppenheimer.  Voice after voice, alarm after alarm, survivor after survivor, are calling the world back from the brink.

And what is the response?  States possessing nuclear weapons are absent from the table of dialogue. Investments in the tools of war are outstripping investments in the tools of peace.  Arms budgets are growing, while diplomacy and development budgets are shrinking.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and domains in cyber and outer space have exposed new vulnerabilities and created new risks.  Countries are pouring resources into deadly new nuclear technologies and spreading the threat to new domains.  And some statements have raised the prospect of unleashing nuclear hell — threats that we must all denounce with clarity and force.

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons ever invented, capable of eliminating all life on earth.  Today, these weapons are growing in power, range and stealth.  An accidental launch is one mistake, one miscalculation, one rash act away.  And ultimately, all of humanity will pay the price.  A nuclear war must never be waged — because a nuclear war can never be won.

There is one path — and one path only — that will vanquish this senseless and suicidal shadow, once and for all.  We need disarmament now.  In fact, eliminating nuclear weapons is the first action called for under the proposed New Agenda for Peace — our effort to strengthen the tools of prevention and disarmament.  We need nuclear-weapon States to lead the way across six areas.

First — we need dialogue.  Nuclear weapon States must re-engage in working together to develop transparency and confidence-building measures to prevent any use of a nuclear weapon.  This should include measures that address the nexus between nuclear weapons and new technologies and domains.  Second — nuclear sabre-rattling must stop.  Threats to use nuclear weapons in any capacity are unacceptable.

Third — nuclear weapon States must re-affirm moratoria on nuclear testing.  This means pledging to avoid taking any actions that would undermine the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, whose entry into force must be the priority.  Fourth — disarmament commitments must become action. Nuclear-weapon States under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must reaffirm their commitment to that Treaty and to the commitments they have made as States parties. And they should pledge to hold each other accountable to these commitments.

Fifth — we need a joint first-use agreement.  Nuclear weapon States must urgently agree that none of them will be the first to use nuclear weapons.  As a matter of fact, none should use them in any circumstances.  And sixth — we need reductions in the number of nuclear weapons.  This reduction must be led by the holders of the largest nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Russian Federation, who must find a way back to the negotiating table to fully implement the New START [Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] Treaty and agree on its successor.

The responsibility to act extends to non-nuclear weapon States. In addition to fulfilling their own non-proliferation obligations, I urge their support for efforts to ensure that nuclear disarmament is verifiable and irreversible.  Help us hold nuclear-weapon States to account.  Help us strengthen the global disarmament architecture — including the Treaties on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

And support the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and our efforts to get the Conference on Disarmament back to work.  The diplomatic deadlock and outdated working methods that have come to define the Conference on Disarmament in recent years are shameful.

When I addressed the Conference last month, I called for a new intergovernmental process, under the General Assembly, to develop reforms to disarmament bodies, including the Conference.  We hope this could lead to a long-overdue fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.

September’s Summit of the Future — and the pact that will emerge — will be an important moment for the world to gather around concrete reforms to the global disarmament architecture and the bodies and institutions that uphold it.

Across all of these areas, this Council has an opportunity to lay down a marker.  To look beyond today’s divisions and state clearly that living with the existential threat of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.  To agree that only by working together can the prospect of a nuclear holocaust be eliminated.  And to lead the way to a world free of these instruments of annihilation.  It’s time.

For information media. Not an official record.