09:10 GMT20 October 2020
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    Leaders from Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Turkey, Iceland, the Netherlands and numerous others co-signed the letter, despite declining to join the Treaty, citing the need for nuclear weapons from the United States being essential to their security.

    56 former leaders representing 20 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as well as Japan and South Korea, have called on additional world powers to back the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) revealed on Monday.

    The risk of using nuclear weapons "whether by accident, miscalculation or design" was rising, the leaders said.

    All countries were urged to “heed the warnings of scientists, doctors and other experts” and take urgent action for disarmament "before it is too late", the open letter stated.

    “We must not sleepwalk into a crisis of even greater proportions than the one we have experienced this year,” the open letter said, speaking on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    According to the letter, nuclear weapons served "no legitimate military or strategic purpose" due to the "catastrophic human and environmental consequences of their use".

    “It is not difficult to foresee how the bellicose rhetoric and poor judgment of leaders in nuclear-armed nations might result in a calamity affecting all nations and peoples,” the letter stated.

    But five countries - Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey - host nuclear bombs from the US and would need to remove them after signing the Treaty, ICAN said.

    The open letter argues that nations were promoting the "dangerous and misguided belief that nuclear weapons enhance security", adding that they should work towards a nuclear-free world.

    “As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is nearing its entry into force, this letter demonstrates that even in countries that officially oppose the treaty, there is very significant high-level support. We’re confident that, over time, that support will grow even stronger, and these countries will eventually join the treaty,” ICAN treaty coordinator Tim Wright said in a statement.

    Nations Pouring Funds Into Nuclear Arms as START Set to Expire

    The news comes as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is set to expire in early February next year if talks between the US and Russia failed to agree on an extension.

    The two sides remain deadlocked on whether to extend the treaty, which aims to limit the number of warheads Russia and the US can deploy at 1,550, with further limitations on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ICBM launchers.

    But US special presidential envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea told Russian media that Washington would extend START for less than five years to agree on a fresh multilateral agreement.

    The open letter comes after an ICAN report revealed that nuclear armed states had spent a record $73bn on nuclear weapons despite struggling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    Nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel had spent around $139,000 on roughly 13,000 nuclear weapons each minute in 2019, the report read.

    “It is absurd to be spending $138,700 every single minute on weapons that cause catastrophic human harm rather than spending it to protect the health of their citizens. They are abdicating their duty to protect their people,” ICAN executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said in a statement at the time.

    Related:

    Nations Spent $73bn on Nuclear Arms Amid COVID-19, UK in 3rd as US Tops at Half of Global Costs
    US Offers Russia to Extend START Treaty for Less Than Five Years
    Russia Will Find Efficient Ways to Defend Itself if New START Not Extended, Envoy to UN Says
    Russian Deputy FM Says It's Unlikely That New START Treaty Will be Prolonged
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    nuclear negotiations, Russian Federation, United States, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, anti-nuclear weapons group, nuclear weapons, NATO, ICANN
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