Proliferate peace

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks at the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima during his trip to Japan:

Seventy-seven years ago, tens of thousands of people were killed in this city, in the blink of an eye. Women, children and men were incinerated in a hellish fire. Buildings turned to dust.

Survivors were cursed with a radioactive legacy. Polluted by cancer. Stalked by health problems. And marked by telltale scars on their bodies — the stigma of surviving the most destructive attack in human history.

The unflinching testimonies of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) remind us of the fundamental folly of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are nonsense.

Three-quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945. Or from the Cold War and the terrifying near-misses that placed humanity within minutes of annihilation. Or from the promising decades of arsenal reductions and widespread acceptance of the principles against the use, proliferation and testing of nuclear weapons.

Because a new arms race is picking up speed.

World leaders are enhancing stockpiles at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. Almost 13,000 nuclear weapons are held in arsenals around the world. And crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast — from the Middle East, to the Korean peninsula, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is totally unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of nuclear war. Humanity is playing with a loaded gun.

There are signs of hope.

In June, members of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons met for the first time to develop a road map toward a world free of these doomsday weapons.

I call on this Treaty’s members to work urgently to eliminate the stockpiles that threaten our future. To strengthen dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation. And to support my disarmament agenda by eliminating these devices of destruction.

Countries with nuclear weapons must commit to the “no first use” of those weapons. They must also assure states that do not have nuclear weapons that they will not use — or threaten to use — nuclear weapons against them. And they must be transparent throughout.

We must keep the horrors of Hiroshima in view at all times, recognizing there is only one solution to the nuclear threat: Not to have nuclear weapons at all.

Leaders cannot hide from their responsibilities. Take the nuclear option off the table — for good. It’s time to proliferate peace.

The world must never forget what happened here. The memory of those who died — and the legacy of those who survived — will never be extinguished.

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