United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 72nd meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo: AP)
Global anxieties about a nuclear war are at their highest level in decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday as he opened a gathering of world leaders dominated by the crisis with North Korea.
Addressing the high-level debate at the General Assembly, Guterres said millions of people are living in dread as a result of North Korea's provocative nuclear and missile tests.
"The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable," Guterres told the 193-nation assembly meeting in New York.
"But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War."
The fear of nuclear warfare "is not abstract", he added. "Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests" carried out by Pyongyang.
The United States backed by Japan, South Korea and its western allies are pushing for a strong international response to North Korea after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and fired missiles over Japan.
But China and Russia have warned that US talk of military options to address the North Korean crisis would have a catastrophic result and are pushing for diplomatic talks.
Guterres warned that rising tensions were increasing the chance of miscalculation and that "fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings."
He called for a political solution, saying "this is a time for statesmanship."
"We must not sleepwalk our way into war," he said.