"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
Clinton Makes Case for CTBT at Conference
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Meri Lugo

A global nuclear test ban would increase U.S. security because “as long as we are confronted with the prospect of nuclear testing by others, we will face the potential threat of newer, more powerful, and more sophisticated weapons that could cause damage beyond our imagination,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sept. 24 in New York.

Clinton’s remarks, which came exactly 13 years after the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature, were delivered on the opening day of the biennial international conference on facilitating the treaty’s entry into force. As Clinton noted, her attendance was the first by a U.S. official since 1999. “We are glad to be back,” she said.

Annex 2 of the treaty specifies 44 countries that must ratify the treaty to trigger its entry into force. The United States has signed the treaty but not ratified it. Eight other Annex 2 countries—China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan—also have not ratified it.

After the United States signed the CTBT in 1996, the Senate voted against ratification in October 1999. The Bush administration did not pursue ratification.

In her address to the CTBT conference, which was attended by senior representatives from more than 100 governments, Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration’s public commitment to “work with the Senate to ratify the CTBT” and called on other Annex 2 states to ratify the treaty.

Clinton also told the conference that the United States is “prepared to pay our share” of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) budget so that “the global verification regime will be fully operational when the CTBT enters into force.” The comment indicated a change in policy from the Bush administration, which delivered on most of the U.S. assessed contributions for the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS), but did not contribute for activities related to preparing for on-site inspections, which will be available after the treaty’s entry into force. The shortfall led to a suspension of U.S. voting rights within the CTBTO for several years. (See ACT, June 2009.)

The IMS will include 321 monitoring stations, 80 percent of which already have been installed. Clinton “urge[d] all host countries to ensure that the data from these stations are reported to the [CTBTO’s] International Data Center,” an apparent reference to China, which is not yet allowing the transmission of data from the IMS stations that have been established inside its borders.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the conference that “the Chinese government will continue to work with the international community to facilitate the early entry into force” of the CTBT.

Addressing the conference Sept. 24, CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth acknowledged the “politically difficult times during the last decade” but reflected the conference’s overall optimistic tone by saying the prospect of CTBT entry into force was more hopeful than ever.

The CTBT has 181 signatories, and on the eve of the conference, St. Vincent and the Grenadines deposited its instrument of ratification, bringing the total number of treaty ratifiers to 150. The conference was concluded by ratifying states passing a final declaration with measures to promote entry into force of the CTBT, which included calling on nonratifying states to continue their voluntary testing moratoriums.

The conference comes on the heels of several recent test ban-related comments by officials from Annex 2 states. In June, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda stated that Indonesia would immediately seek ratification of the CTBT after the United States had ratified it. At a Sept. 21 media briefing in Washington, Tóth welcomed the comments but said Indonesia should not necessarily wait for the United States.

In India, comments by a scientist who was involved in the country’s 1998 nuclear tests have triggered a debate over testing and whether India should join the CTBT.

At the Sept. 21 briefing, Tóth said it was important that such “soul-searching” is taking place in India and elsewhere, particularly in the context of the run-up to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in May. He also said that ratifying the CTBT would be a good way for Iran to “demonstrate what it is repeating,” namely, that its nuclear program is not part of a weapons effort.

Iran has signed the CTBT but not ratified it; India has not signed it.

At the New York conference, Tóth praised the renewed attention the CTBT has received. He reminded conference attendees that although CTBT entry into force is a more realistic vision than a decade ago, much work is left to be done. “It is up to member states to translate this new momentum into concrete action,” he said.