It is totally unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of a nuclear war, António Guterres underscored early on Saturday in Japan at a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
“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”, he urged during the solemn event at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park attended by dozens of people, including hibakusha, young peace activists, Japan’s Prime Minister and other local authorities.
The UN Secretary-General warned that a new arms race is picking up speed and world leaders are enhancing stockpiles at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars with almost 13,000 nuclear weapons currently held in arsenals around the world.
UN Secretary-General’s remarks at the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
Excellencies, brave hibakusha, young peace activists,
ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for the honour of inviting me today.
Hon-jitsu wa, omaneki itadaki, kan-sha moushiage masu.
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 tell-tale scars on their bodies — the stigma of surviving the most destructive attack in human history.
The unflinching testimonies of the hibakusha 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 roadmap towards a world free of these doomsday weapons.
And right now, the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is taking place in New York.
Today, from this sacred space, 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.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the height of the Cold War, schoolchildren learned to hide under desks.
But leaders cannot hide from their responsibilities.
My message to them is simple:
Take the nuclear option off the table — for good.
It’s time to proliferate peace.
Heed the message of the hibakusha:
“No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!”
And to the young people here today: Finish the work that the hibakusha have begun.
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.
The world must never forget
Later in the day, the Secretary-General met five surviving victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as Hibakusha, and heard their stories.
He expressed his admiration for them, acknowledging that they have suffered enormously but have overcome trauma with ‘enormous courage and resilience’.
Mr. Guterres also called them an example for the world, and told the three women and two men reunited with him that they have the moral authority to tell leaders that ‘nuclear weapons are nonsense’
“The UN is committed to keeping the memory of what happened alive, and to make sure that your stories echo forever”, he said.
The hibakusha told the UN chief how they have remained engaged in issues of peace and disarmament for most of their lives: for example, one of them wrote a song to raise awareness and another illustrated her experiences in pictures.
They all expressed their desire that young people also understand the crude reality of nuclear weapons.
Image Credits: UN Photos / Ichiro Mae