Humanity is “just one misunderstanding away from nuclear annihilation”, according to the head of the United Nations in a dire warning.
Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said that crises “with nuclear undertones are festering,” citing the Middle East, North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It comes as America accused Russia of using Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power station, which it seized early on in the war, as a “nuclear shield” during its attacks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was “deeply concerned” that Moscow was now using the Zaporizhzhia plant as a military base and firing at Ukrainian troops from around it.
He said: “The Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant.”
Meanwhile, Mr Guterres said “geopolitical weapons are reaching new highs”, nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are in arsenals globally, and countries seeking “false security” are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on “doomsday weapons”.
He said: “All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are growing and guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening.”
Mr Guterres spoke of the need to address the “simmering tensions” in the Middle East and Asia.
“By adding the threat of nuclear weapons to enduring conflicts, these regions are edging towards catastrophe. We need to redouble our support for dialogue and negotiation,” he continued.
He said today, humanity was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”.
He was speaking at the UN to review the landmark Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970, aiming to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually achieve a nuclear-free world.