MANILA – Warring nations need to deescalate tensions to prevent a nuclear war in the future, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday.
In his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Duterte appealed to nations with interests in the South China Sea and other areas of conflict to deescalate tensions that tear people apart.
“Escalating tensions benefit no one. New flashpoints heighten fears and tend to tear peoples apart. When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” he said.
Duterte lamented how geopolitical tensions “continue to rise” at a time when “stability and confidence” is needed amidst the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
“I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much. I heard it once said, and I say it to myself in complete agreement,” he said.
He also warned of the grave consequences should a nuclear war take place. “Given the size and military might of the contenders, we can only imagine and be aghast at the terrible toll on human life and property that shall be inflicted if the ‘word war’ deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles,” he added.
Duterte told the Assembly he had asked the Philippine Senate to ratify the UN-adopted nuclear ban treaty. “I have asked the Philippine Senate to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Importantly, we were among those to sign it first,” he said.
He likewise emphasized that “there is no aspiration nor ambition” that can justify the use of weapons that destroy indiscriminately and completely. “There is no excuse for deaths that a nuclear war could cause nor the reckless use of chemical and biological weapons that can cause mass destruction,” he said emphatically.
Duterte said weapons put people “at mortal risk” especially if they fall in the hands of terrorists. He also called on all UN member states to fully implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Chemical and the Biological Weapons Conventions.
In 2017, 122 UN member-states including the Philippines adopted said treaty. Presently, 45 countries have already ratified the treaty. (Azer Parrocha/PNA)