Anti-nuclear New Zealand, with the support of like-minded nations including Sweden, will call on nuclear weapons states at the United Nations to lower the risk posed by their nuclear arsenals, an official said Thursday.
"Thousands of nuclear weapons currently are on high-alert status, ready for instant launch. This presents a major threat to global security," said Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff.
"We call on states with nuclear weapons to take mutual action to remove all nuclear weapons from launch-on-warning status," he said.
Nuclear weapon systems at a high level of readiness increase the risk of those weapons being used, including unintentionally, which would lead to catastrophic consequences, Goff noted.
"New Zealand will lead a call at the ... General Assembly this year for nuclear states to draw back their nuclear weapons from immediate launch readiness," he said in a statement.
On Thursday, the chairman of Sweden's Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, Hans Blix, said the United Nations needs to face up to the reality of nuclear weapons.
The veteran Swedish diplomat and former U.N. arms control inspector was in New Zealand for a Red Cross event.
Blix said it is worrying that the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva had not dealt in any way with the development and existence of nuclear weapons during the past 10 years.
Blix said it is essential that more efforts be made to eliminate nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction.
Goff said steps to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear arsenals could include separating nuclear warheads from delivery mechanisms and storing arsenals away from locations from where could be deployed.
"Our goal of course is for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons," he said.
"However, lowering the operational status of nuclear weapons would be an important interim step toward this fundamental objective," he said.