TOKYO (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged countries with nuclear weapons to stick to their no-first use of their nuclear arsenals, warning that the nuclear arms race has returned amid increasing international tensions.
“Now is the time… to ask the nuclear-armed countries to commit to the non-first-use principle and to commit themselves not to use and not to threaten the non-nuclear countries,” Guterres said at a news conference. in Tokyo, two days after he visited Hiroshima to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombings of August 6, 1945.
“I don’t think anyone, anyone can accept the idea that there would be another nuclear war. This will mean the destruction of the planet,” Guterres said. “What is clear is that if no one uses it for the first time, there will be no nuclear war.”
Fears of a third atomic bomb have been heightened by the threat of a nuclear attack by Russia since the war against Ukraine began in February.
Moscow on Thursday shelled the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya, which has the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. When asked about the attack, Guterres said, “Any attack on a nuclear power plant is suicide.”
He said he fully supports the International Atomic Energy Agency in their effort to stabilize the plant and have access to the facility to carry out its mandate.
Guterres said that after decades of nuclear disarmament efforts, the world is now “moving backwards”, noting that the world already has 13,000 atomic bombs and huge investments in modernizing nuclear arsenals. “So now is the time to say, stop it.”
Guterres said the billions of dollars used in the arms race should be spent on other pressing issues.
“The billions used in this arms race should be used to fight climate change, fight poverty and address the needs of the international community,” he said.
He said he will also go to Mongolia and South Korea to discuss ways to address North Korea’s nuclear development..
At a time when geopolitical tensions are mounting and the nuclear threat is once again acute, Japan’s strong and consistent voice on peace is more important than ever, Guterres said, urging Japan to maintain its unique position as the world’s only country. use that has undergone nuclear attacks. to act as “a bridge builder and peacemaker to strengthen global cooperation, trust and solidarity”.
Guterres said he is counting on Japan’s potential to take leadership in the global fight against climate change, and specifically urged Tokyo to cut funding to coal-fired power plants.
Japan, which has not clarified the timing when it will completely ban coal-fired power plants, is seen as reluctant to commit to banning coal power as soon as many European countries.
Current efforts in Japan, the world’s third largest economy, are focused on developing methods to burn ammonia in conventional coal-fired power plants and phasing out the use of coal possibly sometime in the 2040s. Japan also wants to promote ‘clean coal’ technology in Asia to achieve zero emissions.
Energy experts and critics say Japan currently has too ambitious targets for nuclear energy to supply 20%-22% of its energy mix by 2030. By then, the country has pledged to cut emissions to 46% of 2013 levels.
“There is no such thing as clean coal,” Guterres said. “For a real change, I hope that Japanese public and private capital will completely stop financing coal.”
Guterres said he expects Japan, through multilateral development banks, to “provide immediate investment and support to developing countries to expand renewable energies and build climate resilience” to find solutions that fit their needs in addressing the climate emergency.
“I call on Japan to make the right choice – for Japan and for the world,” he said.