International Day Against Nuclear Tests:
Translating Words Into Action
Prepared Remarks by Tom Z. Collina, Research Director, Arms Control Association
August 29, 2011
On behalf of ACA, I would like to thank the organizers of this meeting—the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Mission of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Geneva—for inviting me here today to speak.
It is particularly fitting for Kazakhstan to be represented here, as it was twenty years ago—in 1991-- that the people of Kazakhstan succeeded in closing the former Soviet test site at Semipalatinsk. This was followed by Soviet President Gorbachev’s declaration of a moratorium on nuclear testing, and then the United States announced its moratorium in 1992. The CTBT was then negotiated and signed in 1996.
So in many ways it all began with Kazakhstan, and we owe them many thanks.
But of course, 15 years later our work is not done, and I am glad we have such things as “international days against nuclear tests” to remind us that we must still bring the CTBT into force.
Some might ask, why is the CTBT still important? Because the test ban is a crucial barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons to additional nations AND to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups.
Indeed, the treaty is more important today than ever.
By banning all nuclear tests, the CTBT prevents the established nuclear-weapon states from proof-testing new, more sophisticated warhead designs. And newer members of the nuclear club would not be able to perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads without testing.
The treaty also serves to reinforce the nonproliferation system by serving as a confidence-building measure about a state’s nuclear intentions, and it can help head-off and de-escalate regional tensions.
For these and other reasons, CTBT entry into force has long been considered a key part of fulfilling Article VI of the NPT.
With the CTBT in force, capabilities to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states will be significantly greater. Entry-into-force is essential to making short-notice, on-site inspections possible and for maintaining long-term political and financial support for the monitoring system.
How can we Accelerate Entry Into Force?
Now, 182 states have signed the CTBT, an impressive number, but the treaty must still be ratified by nine states before it can formally enter into force —the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, and North Korea.
In three weeks, states parties will gather in New York to speak about the value of the treaty and the need for prompt entry into force. We appreciate this effort, but actions speak louder than words. That conference must help produce a serious diplomatic action plan for getting the remaining hold out states on board.
Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. Given their existing nuclear test moratoria and treaty signatures, Washington and Beijing already bear most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of the treaty.
In April 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of” the CTBT. He said, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned." We agree.
But now, President Obama must translate those words into action and mount a serious public campaign to win the support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate for ratification of the treaty.
With the support of a wide array of NGOs in the United States and around the globe, the Obama administration can and must make the case that the Treaty enhances international security, is effectively verifiable, and is essential to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the decades to come.
The technical and political case for the CTBT is much stronger today than it was in 1999 when the Senate briefly considered the treaty. The Senate must honestly review the new evidence for the treaty rather than arrive at judgments based on old information.
It is also time for China’s leaders to act. For years, Beijing has reported that the CTBT is before the National People’s Congress but has apparently taken no action on ratification. We note the January 19, 2011 Joint Statement by Presidents Hu Jintao and Obama stating that “… both sides support early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”
Washington’s renewed pursuit of CTBT ratification opens up opportunities for China and other Annex 2 states—such as Indonesia—to lead the way toward entry into force by ratifying before the United States. Action by Beijing would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states would follow suit.
India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into a legally binding commitment to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.
With no shortage of conflict in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear-weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for a regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
Likewise, if Israel were to ratify, it would get closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and help encourage other states in the region to follow suit.
Iranian ratification could help reduce concerns that its nuclear program would be used to develop smaller, deliverable nuclear warheads. Iran’s failure to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its nuclear activities.
North Korea’s nuclear tests undermine Asian security. The DPRK should declare a halt to further testing pending the resumption of the Six-Party talks. The participants in those talks should make North Korea’s approval of the CTBT one of the key steps in the process.
In closing, we sincerely urge all states that have not done so to ratify the CTBT. To those that have ratified, we thank you and ask you to contribute to the Article XIV Conference on Entry Into Force in September.
ACA and supporters of the CTBT the world over stand ready to help bring the treaty into force.