With trade and geopolitical tensions heating up, UNSecretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the world could fractureinto two competing blocs – led by the US and China – with their own Internet,currency, trade system and military strategy.
"I am troubled by the growing friction among the twolargest global economies," he told reporters here on Thursday, referringto the tensions between China and the US and its allies even though he did notname them. "We need to learn the lessons of the Cold War and avoid a newone."
In his exposition of the threats from hotspots around theglobe, Guterres promised to "intensify our surge in diplomacy forpeace".
Describing a possible return to a Cold War scenario, hesaid: "Looking into the not so distant future, I see the possibleemergence of two competing blocs – each with their own dominant currency, tradeand financial rules, their own Internet and Artificial Intelligence strategy,and their own contradictory geopolitical and military views.
"We still have time to avoid this… With leadershipcommitted to strategic cooperation and to managing competing interests, we cansteer the world onto a safer path."
The emerging threat to the global system is seen in theUS-China faceoff on many fronts: a trade war of tariffs and counter-tariffsamid stalled negotiations, with US President Donald Trump announcing a 10 percent tax on Chinese imports worth $300 billion on Thursday; the US trying tostop the adoption of Chinese technology like Huawei's 5G communication systemsamid fears of possible espionage; allegations of intellectual property thefts;military confrontations between China and democracies in the Indo-Pacific area;Beijing cutting off access to vast swathes of the Internet for its citizenscreating a self-contained system, and China's expanding trade and developmentsystem, One Road, One Belt, along with the Asian Infrastructure InvestmentBank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recognising the yuan as aSpecial Drawing Rights (SDR) currency.
During a virtual tour of global hot spots, Guterres alsosaid he was concerned about the growing tensions on the nuclear front as theIntermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) ends on Friday when the US withdrawalfrom the pact with Russia is complete.
"The world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclearwar. This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballisticmissiles.
"Regardless of what transpires, the parties shouldavoid destabilizing developments," he said.
The Secretary-General asked the US and Russia to extend the2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that expires in 2021"to provide stability and the time to negotiate future arms controlmeasures".
Guterres also urged all nations to work together on thereview of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) next year. (India is not asignatory to the treaty as it considers it discriminatory giving special rightsto the original five nuclear weapon states.)
He said that he was worried about rising tensions in thePersian Gulf where "a minor miscalculation could lead to a majorconfrontation" with "devastating implications on global security andthe global economy".
He called for "maximum restraint" by all countriesand added, "I stress the need to respect the rights and duties relating tonavigation through the Strait of Hormuz and its adjacent waters in accordancewith international law".
The US imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign MinisterMohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday. The two countries have attacked drones inthe region and Britain and Iran have seized petroleum tankers belonging to eachother.