The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 has been awarded to an anti-nuclear weapons group. The highly contested prize, which was previously won by Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai, has been given to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of hundreds of NGOs working to eliminate all nuclear arsenal.

Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said ICAN won the award for its "groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty prohibition" on nuclear weapons.

She praised the group for drawing attention "to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons."

"ICAN has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour," she said.

In July, following pressure from ICAN, 122 countries adopted a UN treaty that was designed to ban all nuclear weapons. None of the nine countries that own nuclear weapons - including the US and UK - signed the treaty.

"We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time," Reiss-Andersen said, referring to the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

"Some states are modernising their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea," the committee statement read.

North Korea and the United States have been engaged in a war of words ever since Pyongyang said "carefully examining" a plan to strike the Pacific island of Guam. US President Donald Trump responded by warning North Korea that any threat to attack US soil would be "met with fire and fury".

In awarding the prize to ICAN, the committee said it was calling upon "nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradual elimination of the world's 15,000 nuclear weapons."

The committee's decision comes at a critical time as President Trump threatens to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. The president is set to unveil his plans next week after warning that Iran has "not lived up to the spirit of the deal." A move to end the deal could lead to new US sanctions against Tehran, according to unnamed administration officials.