Guterres worried over escalating disputes between US, China

Antonio Guterres

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday that the world is living in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe, fuelled by growing distrust and tensions between the nuclear powers.

The UN chief told a high-level meeting to commemorate the recent International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons that progress on ridding the world of nuclear weapons has stalled and is at risk of backsliding.

And he said strains between countries that possess nuclear weapons have increased nuclear risks.

As examples, Guterres has expressed deep concern at the escalating disputes between the Trump administration and China. Relations between the U.S. and Russia are at a low point.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are feuding over Kashmir, and India just had a border skirmish with China. And North Korea boasts about its nuclear weapons.

Without naming any countries, Guterres said programs to modernize nuclear arsenals threaten a qualitative nuclear arms race, not to increase the number of weapons but to make them faster, stealthier and more accurate.

Guterres also pointed to the only treaty constraining the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia — which is set to expire next year.

It is imperative that the two countries extend it without delay for the maximum five years, he said, waring that without a treaty there is an alarming possibility of a return to unconstrained strategic competition.

The secretary-general said the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or NPT, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.