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UN chief plans major disarmament push

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U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is to launch a major push for disarmament talks covering everything from nuclear and cyber war to small arms, braving certain US resistance to such bold initiatives, officials and experts said.

Mr Guterres aims to forestall a new nuclear arms race and get the big powers back into negotiations after two decades of stalemate, according to a Geneva-based expert familiar with the plans, who requested anonymity. The expert said Mr Guterres also wants to end “state-led paralysis” in talks on cyberwarfare and robotics by getting the private sector involved, and to start talks on use of explosives in urban areas and curbing access to conventional weapons.

“If Guterres is clever he can use that to say: ‘Okay what have you done in the past 10 years?’” said Marc Finaud, an expert at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said nuclear disarmament was an “aspirational goal” only, and it was hard to conceive of it in the near term.

“We don’t believe that it’s time for bold initiatives, particularly in the area of nuclear weapons,” the official said.

“I worry that the Secretary-General may be trying to treat the symptoms and not the root causes of why countries arm and rearm.”

The US Nuclear Posture Review, published on Friday, aims to improve deterrence, ensuring Russia, China, North Korea and Iran cannot mistake the US willingness to defend itself, the official added.

The US official said the problem was political will and the fact Russia was not a willing or trusted negotiating partner.

Mr Guterres’ strategy seeks to revive talks across the spectrum despite deepening US-Russian mistrust and heightened tensions on the divided Korean peninsula.

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