Britain, France Ratify CTB Treaty, Administration Looks to Senate

April 1998

By Craig Cerniello

In early April, Britain and France became the first of the five declared nuclear-weapon states to deposit their instruments of ratification for the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty. President Bill Clinton, who submitted the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification last September, reiterated his call for Senate approval this year. It is uncertain, however, whether the administration will achieve this goal given Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms' unwillingness to schedule hearings. (See ACT, January/February 1998.)

British Ambassador to the United Nations Sir John Weston and France's ambassador, Alain Dejammet, jointly deposited their countries' instruments of ratification with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the depositary of the treaty, in an April 6 ceremony. As of the end of April, the CTB Treaty has been signed by 149 states and ratified by 13. The treaty will enter into force 180 days after 44 designated states have deposited their instruments of ratification. These 44 states include the five declared nuclear-weapon states, the three "threshold" states (India, Israel and Pakistan) and 36 other states that are participating members of the Conference on Disarmament and recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency as possessing nuclear power and/or research reactors. Thus far, 41 of the 44 states have signed and six (Austria, Britain, France, Japan, Peru and Slovakia) have ratified. India, North Korea and Pakistan are the only three of the 44 states yet to sign the treaty.

In connection with Britain's ratification, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said, "The CTBT is a cornerstone of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. Britain's ratification signals our commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world.... I urge all countries which have not yet signed or ratified to do so whether or not they possess nuclear weapons."

In an April 6 statement, Clinton said, "I applaud this milestone in the global effort to reduce the nuclear threat and build a safer world.... The CTBT is in the best interests of the United States because its provisions will significantly further our nuclear nonproliferation and arms control objectives and strengthen international security."

The following day, John Holum, director of the arms control and disarmament agency and acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, urged the Senate to approve the CTB "before it goes home this fall." Holum said during his press briefing that the administration will continue to publicly make the case for the CTB—a treaty that he noted enjoys overwhelming public support.

Earlier in the month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright emphasized the importance of U.S. action. In her April 2 remarks to the American Association of Newspaper Editors, she said, "Some senators may seek to delay the [CTB] Treaty's ratification, arguing that because of a handful of holdout nations, it will not enter into force any time soon. But it is precisely because some nations are resisting the treaty that our leadership in approving it is so important. We don't want to give the naysayers another excuse not to act; we want to turn up the heat. And the way to do that is for the United States to lead the way in ratifying the CTBT, just as we did last year in approving the Chemical Weapons Convention—which led, in turn, to ratification of that agreement by Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan."