CTBT Signatories Push Entry Into Force

Daryl G. Kimball

Fifteen years after the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature, more than 160 senior government officials met at a Sept. 23 conference at the United Nations to urge its signature and ratification by nine key remaining states to trigger entry into force.

More than 50 officials spoke at the seventh biennial Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force. Under the treaty’s Article XIV and Annex 2, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. Nine of those states—China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have not yet done so.

The final conference declaration “urge[s] all remaining States…to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay” and endorses bilateral, regional, and multilateral initiatives to achieve the treaty’s “earliest entry into force.”

In his address to the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the growing calls, at the international political level and from the many victims and survivors of nuclear testing, for bringing the treaty into force. “My message is clear: Do not wait for others to move first. Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed,” he stated. “We must make the most of existing—and potentially short-lived—opportunities.”

Since the 2009 Article XIV conference, the treaty has been signed and ratified by Trinidad and Tobago and ratified by four other states: the Central African Republic, Ghana, Guinea, and the Marshall Islands. To date, 182 states have signed the treaty, and 155 have ratified it. Yet, entry into force remains years away.

Carl Bildt and Patricia Espinosa, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Mexico, respectively, presided over the conference. Sweden and Mexico will head multilateral efforts to promote CTBT entry into force for the next two years.

The United States and China, which have signed but not ratified the treaty, have repeatedly expressed their support for it. In a Jan. 19, 2011, joint communiqué, Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao declared that “both sides support early entry into force of the CTBT.”

In May of this year, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher announced that the administration would begin a quiet effort to discuss the technical issues of the treaty with some Senate offices. (See ACT, June 2011.) In an interview posted Sept. 2 on the Web site Arms Control Wonk, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller confirmed that the effort has begun, noting that “the way people are going to come to their decisions about the treaty [is] through [a] process of very serious discussion and debate, seeing the facts, and coming to understand them.”

Gottemoeller also said, “[W]e’re not going to set any deadlines for ratification…we’re not rushing into this. We’re playing this as a long game, and really want to have that serious discussion and debate, and to get all the facts in front of the responsible figures: the Senators, the members and their staffs who are going to have to absorb and understand what all the issues are.”

In his Sept. 21 address before the UN General Assembly, Obama pledged that “America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons.”

At the Sept. 23 CTBT conference, Tauscher reiterated the Obama administration’s support for the treaty and said, “[W]e intend to see it enter into force, but we cannot do it alone. As we move forward with our process, we call on all governments to declare or reaffirm their commitment not to test.”

Although movement toward U.S. Senate reconsideration of the CTBT remains slow, U.S. financial and technical support has substantially increased under the Obama administration.

Already the largest contributor to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the United States announced two voluntary contributions in September. The first, valued at $8.9 million, will underwrite in-kind projects implemented by U.S. agencies in coordination with the CTBTO. These include enhancing radionuclide and noble gas detection technologies, refining seismic detection techniques, and supporting auxiliary seismic stations, according to a Sept. 6 CTBTO press release. The second contribution of $25.5 million will be used to reconstruct a damaged hydroacoustic station in the French Southern Territories, thereby completing the global hydroacoustic network to detect prohibited nuclear explosions, according to the CTBTO.

Since the establishment of the CTBTO in 1997, the global monitoring and data analysis system for verifying the treaty has been built up and is nearly complete, with about 85 percent of the planned 337 monitoring stations now operational. The CTBTO’s International Data Center also contributes to information for tsunami early warning, and earlier this year, the CTBTO provided global surveillance of the radioactive emissions from the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex after the March 11 accident there.