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UN Chief Says World 'Must Not Sleepwalk Into War' Over North Korea

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19.

Global anxieties about a nuclear war are at their highest level in decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said as he opened the UN General Assembly dominated by the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.

Guterres said on September 19 that millions of people were living in a "shadow of dread" cast by the "provocative" tests carried out by Pyongyang in recent weeks.

The UN chief called for a political solution to the crisis, saying, "this is a time for statesmanship."

"We must not sleepwalk our way into war," he said.

"The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable," Guterres told the 193-state assembly meeting in New York.

"But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War," he added.

Guterres also warned about other challenges the world faces, including rising insecurity, growing inequality, spreading conflict and a changing climate.

"Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

"We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace," the UN chief said in his speech.

Guterres, a former head of the UN refugee agency, also spoke of being "pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated -- and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain."

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters and dpa