The winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize have cautioned that nuclear annihilation is just an "impulsive tantrum away".

The winners, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), made the chilling warning as the United States and North Korea exchange threats over the secretive nation's nuclear tests.

"Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?" said Beatrice Fihn, the head of ICAN, upon receiving the Peace Price on behalf of the anti-nuclear group, the Daily Mail reports.

Nobel committee leader Berit Reiss-Andersen, left, presents the award to Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, leader of ICAN. Photo / AP
Nobel committee leader Berit Reiss-Andersen, left, presents the award to Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, leader of ICAN. Photo / AP

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiralled as Pyongyang has in recent months ramped up its missile and nuclear tests.

Advertisement

"The only rational course of action is to cease living under the conditions where our mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away," Fihn added.

Read more: Donald Trump issues another threat to North Korea as tensions grow

ICAN, a coalition of hundreds of NGOs around the world, has worked for a treaty banning nuclear weapons which was adopted in July by 122 countries.

The text was weakened by the absence of the nine nuclear powers among the signatories.
In an apparent snub of the ICAN-backed treaty, the three western nuclear powers — the US, France and Britain — broke with tradition by sending second-ranking diplomats rather than their ambassadors to Sunday's ceremony.

Supporters of nuclear weapons argue that they serve as a deterrent for starting a major conflict as it would guarantee mutual destruction for the nations involved.

"They are a madman's gun held permanently to our temple," Fihn said.

"These weapons were supposed to keep us free, but they deny us our freedoms."

Read more: Time to accept North Korea is nuke state

Advertisement

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in her lecture during the ceremony that ICAN's "message resonates with millions of people who perceive that the threat of nuclear war is greater than it has been for a long time, not least due to the situation in North Korea".

Senior UN envoy Jeffrey Feltman on Saturday warned there was a grave risk that a miscalculation could trigger conflict with Pyongyang and urged the reclusive state to keep communication channels open.

Kim and Trump have taunted each other in recent months, with the US President pejoratively dubbing his rival "Little Rocket Man" and a "sick puppy".

"A moment of panic or carelessness, a misconstrued comment or bruised ego could easily lead us unavoidably to the destruction of entire cities," Fihn said.

Read more: North Korea blames US for 'nuclear blackmail' as tensions rise

Several survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings, which killed more than 220,000 people 72 years ago, attended the ceremony in the Oslo City Hall.

One of them, Setsuko Thurlow, received the Nobel on behalf of ICAN jointly with Fihn.
Speaking to AFP ahead of the ceremony, Thurlow recalled the horrific aftermath of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when she was 13 years old.

Hiroshima Survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, leader of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Oslo City Hall. Photo / AP
Hiroshima Survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, leader of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Oslo City Hall. Photo / AP

Thurlow described corpses lying on the ground, the injured and dying calling for help and the survivors looking like "a procession of ghosts".

"The hair was standing up and they were all burned on the skin and their flesh was hanging from their bones," she said.

"Some were carrying their eyeballs. It just was like hell on earth," added the 85-year-old who now lives in Canada and uses a wheelchair.

Read more: The horror and history of Hiroshima

Although the number of nuclear weapons has dropped since the end of the Cold War, there are still around 15,000 atomic bombs on earth.

"Listen to our testimony. Heed our warning. And know that your actions are consequential," Thurlow said during her speech at the ceremony, referring to the leaders of nuclear-armed nations.

At a separate ceremony in Stockholm on Sunday, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf handed over the Nobel prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, medicine and economics.

Each prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal and a cheque for nine million Swedish kroner (£791,000).

FULL LIST OF THIS YEAR'S NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017:

One half the the Physics prize was awarded to American physicist Rainer Weiss, and the other half jointly to American experimental physicist Barry Barish and American theoretical physicist Kip S. Thorne, "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves".

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017:
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 was awarded to Swiss biophysicist Jacques Dubochet, German-born American biophysicist Joachim Frank and Scottish molecular biologist and biophysicist Richard Henderson, "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution".

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017:
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017 was awarded jointly to American geneticist and chronobiologist Jeffrey C. Hall, American geneticist and chronobiologist Michael Rosbash and American biologist and geneticist Michael W. Young, "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm".

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017:
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 was awarded to novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer Kazuo Ishiguro, "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".

The Nobel Peace Prize 2017:
The Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons".

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2017
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2017 was awarded to Richard H. Thaler, "for his contributions to behavioural economics".