"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Indonesia Ratifies Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

The Indonesian House of Representatives approved the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on Dec. 6, decreasing the number of states that must ratify the pact before its entry into force from nine to eight.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996 and is the 156th country to ratify the treaty, which prohibits all nuclear weapons test explosions.

Formal entry into force of the CTBT requires that a specific group of 44 states named in Annex 2 of the treaty ratify it. Eight more Annex 2 states must still ratify the treaty to trigger formal entry into force: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

In comments following Indonesia’s parliamentary vote, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said, “I am determined to ensure that Indonesia’s decision today will create momentum to encourage others who are still holding out to do the right thing. And the only right thing is to ratify the CTBT now, no more procrastination, no more delaying because it is right, it is proper, and it makes a more secure world.”

Indonesia—the world’s fourth most-populous country—is currently the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and recently helped negotiate an agreement between that group and the five original nuclear-weapon states to enable them to accede to the Treaty of Bangkok’s protocol. (See ACT, December 2011.) Under the protocol, nuclear-weapon states pledge to respect the Southeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone created by the pact.

Following Indonesia’s ratification vote, Ismet Ahmad, a lawmaker from the National Mandate Party, called on the world’s nuclear-armed countries, especially Israel and the United States, to follow suit. “Indonesia’s ratification has no significance unless other nuclear states take the same step,” he said, according to an Agence France Presse report.

In a Dec. 6 statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged others to ratify the treaty. “My message is clear: Do not wait for others to move first,” Ban said. “Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed.”

In a joint op-ed published Dec. 18 on Al Jazeera’s Web site, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, who currently lead outreach efforts to the states that have not yet ratified the treaty, addressed the eight nonparties directly. “[N]ow the spotlight is on you,” they said.

In a statement issued Dec. 6, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Indonesia’s ratification and said, “The United States remains fully committed to pursuing ratification of the Test Ban Treaty and will continue to engage members of the Senate on the importance of this Treaty to U.S. security. America must lead the global effort to prevent proliferation, and adoption and early entry into force of the CTBT is a vital part of that effort.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Indonesia’s leadership. In a Dec. 6 statement, she said the United States “calls on all governments to declare or reaffirm their commitment not to conduct explosive nuclear tests” and “urge[s] all states that have not yet ratified the treaty to join us in this effort.”

Last May, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher announced that the Obama administration had begun informal briefings of senators and staff on the key technical and scientific issues that were cited as reasons for opposing the treaty in 1999, when the Senate voted it down. Those briefings have continued. Several members of Congress also have toured the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s headquarters in Vienna in the past year.

However, with the presidential election campaign under way and a new National Academy of Sciences report on the technical issues surrounding the treaty still under declassification review, few observers believe there is sufficient time for the Senate to conduct an in-depth review of the treaty before U.S. elections in November.