The risk of a nuclear war is being warned as an “urgent issue” that needs to be taken more seriously, with the risk of nuclear weapons being used at its highest since World War II.

UN Institute for Disarmament Research director Renata Dwan told Reuters all states with nuclear weapons have nuclear modernisation programmes under way.

She also says the arms control landscape is changing, partly because of strategic competition between China and the US.

“I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognise … that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War II,” Ms Dwan says, also citing an increasing prevalence of armed groups and private sector forces, and new technologies that blur the line between offence and defence.

Traditional arms control arrangements are also being eroded by the emergence of new types of war.

With disarmament talks stalemated for the past two decades, 122 countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, partly out of frustration and partly out of a recognition of the risks, Reuters reports.

Today, China’s disarmament ambassador in Geneva accused Washington of sabotaging and tearing up deals, having a “Cold War mentality” and displaying bullying behaviour.

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