Leaders must heed the warning of the growing nuclear threat


American writer Hunter S. Thompson used to warn: “Never fire a warning shot. That’s a waste of ammunition.” But such advance notice that we are about to doom ourselves, like that of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, can only be ignored at one’s peril. In his view, we are “one misjudgment away from nuclear annihilation.”

In the face of heightened tensions, executive recklessness and so many global trouble spots, he believes, “We’ve been extraordinarily lucky so far.”

But unfortunately, as he also points out, luck is not a strategy. Citing Russia’s war with Ukraine and tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East, Mr Guterres said he feared crises “with nuclear overtones” could escalate.

The comments formed the backdrop to a hair-raising trip to Taiwan by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Whether or not she has the full endorsement of the White House could not be more controversial, as she is second in line to succeed the US presidency and is a consistent critic of China.

It will do nothing to worsen Washington-Beijing relations. The reason for this may be that if successful, it could ultimately avoid a crisis in the Taiwan Straits. If it backfires, it could trigger one. It could also encourage other world leaders to show their support for Taiwan.

Given the volume of naval and air warfare maneuvers in the South China Sea, there is no room for slip-up. According to Mr. Guterres, there are nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons in arsenals around the world. He said states are seeking “false security in amassing and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet.”

Similar fears were voiced earlier this summer when a Stockholm-based armaments research group said it was seeing a “very worrying trend” that all nuclear-armed states are stockpiling and the post-Cold War era of declining nuclear arsenals may be coming to an end. In his speech at the NPT conference, the UN chief advised that phasing out such weapons was the only option to ensure they could never be used.

Despite the threat of America nipping the tail of the dragon in Taiwan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of “reckless, dangerous nuclear saber-rattling.” Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin wrote to the conference in a passive tone, declaring, “There can be no winners in a nuclear war.” President Joe Biden, for his part, has appealed to Russia and China to resume nuclear arms control talks.

Last week it was China’s President Xi Jinping who warned Mr Biden during a phone call that “play with fire and you’ll get burned”.

History has shown quite vividly how costly it is when, despite advice, we persistently refuse to correct our mistakes; or change course in the face of flashing danger signs.

Gambling throwing global catastrophes in the pot can only end with the worst
consequences. Leaders must heed the warning of the growing nuclear threat

Fry Electronics Team

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