Top United Nations officials on Wednesday called on the international community to make efforts to create a future free from the nuclear threat.
“Seventy-five years ago, a single nuclear weapon visited unspeakable death and destruction upon this city,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his video message to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, a Japanese vigil held annually on Aug. 6 local time.
The memorial ceremony is to remember the victims of the atomic bombs and to pray for the realization of lasting world peace.
Recalling the birth of the United Nations in 1945, the same year when the nuclear bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Guterres said, “Since its earliest days and resolutions, the organization has recognized the need to totally eliminate nuclear weapons.”
“Yet, that goal remains unachieved,” he said, adding that the web of arms control, transparency and confidence-building instruments established during the Cold War and afterwards, is fraying.
Against the backdrop of division, distrust and a lack of dialogue among states modernizing their nuclear arsenals and developing new dangerous weapons and delivery systems, he fears that the prospect of a nuclear-weapon-free world “seems to be slipping further from our grasp.”
“The risk of nuclear weapons being used, intentionally, by accident or through miscalculation, is too high for such trends to continue,” the UN chief added.
While all states can play a positive role, the countries that possess nuclear weapons have a special responsibility: “They have repeatedly committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” Guterres noted.
“Now is the time for dialogue, confidence-building measures, reductions in the size of nuclear arsenals and utmost restraint,” he added.
Calling for the international non-proliferation and disarmament architecture to be safeguarded and strengthened, the UN chief cited next year’s Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (TNPNW) as an opportunity for states to “return to this shared vision.
“He also looked forward to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entry into force, along with that of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which he said “remains a top priority in order to entrench and institutionalize the global norm against nuclear testing.”
As to the COVID-19 pandemic currently raging around the world, the secretary-general said it has exposed so many of the world’s fragilities, “including in the face of the nuclear threat.”
“There truly is no winner in a nuclear war,” Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the UN General Assembly, said also in a video message. “We must recommit to nuclear disarmament for there will never be a justification for the decimation caused by nuclear weapons,” he said, urging everyone to “work relentlessly” to do so.
Calling the TPNW “a milestone agreement” in nuclear disarmament, he called on all member states to sign and ratify it. “In memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … let us work together to create the future we want: a future which is free from the existential threat of nuclear weapons,” concluded the president.
On Aug. 6, 1945, a U.S. bomber dropped a uranium bomb above the city, killing around 140,000 people. Three days later a second nuclear weapon was dropped on Nagasaki. Two weeks later Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
Early on Thursday in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the mayor of Hiroshima joined bomb survivors and descendants in the city’s Peace Park.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members have decided to postpone the 2020 Review Conference of the parties to the TNPNW to a later date, as soon as the circumstances permit, but no later than April 2021.