The United Nations Security Council on Thursday affirmed its commitment to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and established a broad framework for reducing global nuclear dangers, in an historic summit-level meeting chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The meeting -- only the fifth in the Council's history since 1946 to be held at the level of heads of State and government -- began with the unanimous adoption of a resolution by which the 15-member body voiced grave concern over the threat of nuclear proliferation and the need for global action to combat it.
Obama, whose country holds the rotating Council presidency in December, becomes the first U.S. president to preside over the Security Council meeting.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution, adding that the summit was "an historic event that has opened a new chapter in the Council's efforts to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation."
Stressing that "nuclear disarmament is the only sane path to a safer world," Ban said in his opening remarks that "nothing would work better in eliminating the risk of use than eliminating the weapons themselves."
In resolution 1887, the Council called on countries to sign and ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and created additional deterrence for withdrawal from the treaty.
In addition, the Security Council called on all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing it into force as soon as possible.
"Although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches," said Obama.
"Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people," he said. "And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country continues to reduce nuclear arms "way ahead of schedule," adding that all of its nuclear weapons are "located on its national territory and under reliable protection."
Medvedev also highlighted the "unprecedented" reductions of strategic nuclear arsenals by Russia and the United States.
Removing the threat of nuclear war is vital to realizing a safer world for all, Chinese President Hu Jintao said, while acknowledging that nuclear disarmament remains a "long and arduous" task.
He put forward a series of measures, including abandoning the nuclear deterrence policy based on first use and taking credible steps to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.
President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica said the UN had been founded on the promise that all people would able to sleep peacefully, but that promise had not been kept.
"While we sleep, death is awake. Death keeps watch from the warehouses that store more than 23,000 nuclear warheads, like 23,000 eyes open and waiting for a moment of carelessness," he stated, adding that it did not seem plausible to discuss disarmament as long as existing agreements were not being honored.
While affirming the right of nations to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the resolution called for stronger safeguards to reduce the likelihood that peaceful nuclear programs can be diverted to a weapons program, as well as stricter national export controls on sensitive nuclear materials.
Outgoing Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spoke of the need to strengthen and empower the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if it is to play a role in nuclear disarmament.
"Our verification mandate is centered on nuclear material. If the Agency is to be expected to pursue possible weaponization activities, it must be empowered with the corresponding legal authority," he said.
The Council summit comes ahead of the nuclear security summit to be convened by Obama next April and the NPT Review Conference set for next May. It also coincided with a two-day conference that began at the UN Headquarters on Thursday to try to promote the CTBT and its entry into force.