"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
Interview With The Special Representative To Promote The Ratification Process Of The CTBT Jaap Ramaker
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Interviewed by Oliver Meier and Miles A. Pomper

On Oct. 18, Oliver Meier, the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent, and Arms Control Today Editor Miles A. Pomper talked to Ambassador Jaap Ramaker about efforts to achieve entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Ramaker, a Dutch diplomat, was appointed in 2003 by CTBT member states as special representative to promote the ratification process of the CTBT. He was confirmed in that position during the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, which took place recently on Sept. 21-23 in New York. Ramaker, who at the time chaired the test ban negotiations, has been tasked with serving as a liaison between the countries that have already ratified the CTBT and those that have not done so. The CTBT will formally enter into force after 44 designated “nuclear-capable states” have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General. To date, 176 states have signed and 125 have ratified the treaty. Yet of the 44 specified countries, only 33 have ratified the treaty.

ACT: What do you think governments could do to exercise more persistent top-level diplomacy in support of CTBT entry into force?

Ramaker: Let me first of all say that I already enjoy quite a bit of support. The European Union, for instance, adopted a while ago a Common Position when they were preparing for the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT Review Conference.[1] In that Common Position, the EU members said that they give me their full support. Recently in China, the Chinese authorities told me that they are very supportive of what I’m doing and trying to do. And it’s my impression that other countries certainly are supportive of what I’m doing and also are promoting entry into force themselves. You know, countries like Australia or Japan, or Russia and Canada, and I’m sure there are others—I don’t want to leave anyone out— each of them in its own way acts in favor of entry into force of the Treaty. That also helps me in my task. We’re all working towards the same objective.

ACT: You mentioned China in your presentation. Is there any movement or any news on China? As you know, for some time they’ve talked about completing their ratification proc edure.

Ramaker: This is also a concern to me. When I was in China last April my interlocutors told me that China is moving forward but carefully. During the last NPT Review Conference in New York the Chinese delegation stated that China is now working very hard on the internal legal proceedings needed for ratification. I take their word for it.

ACT: And did they give you any more specifics other than they were working hard, any milestones?

Ramaker: Well, I cannot be more specific than they are. That is clear.

ACT: You mentioned Vietnam also. What’s your assessment with regard to Vietnam? Do you think there will be movement with regard to their ratification?

Ramaker: I visited Vietnam in November last year. I’ve since been in touch with Vietnam. And I talked to the foreign minister of Vietnam in New York recently and my impression is that the Vietnamese are really working on this issue and that to me sounds positive.

ACT: You’ve also been to Pakistan, I believe. And Pakistan and India have not even signed the treaty. Can you tell us a little bit about your efforts with regard to South Asia and how you see the situation there?

Ramaker: There are three regions as I also mentioned in my statement in New York last month where issues of nuclear disarmament, of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, of nonproliferation are in my view part of some sort of a wider regional context. Obviously this is the case with South Asia, with India and Pakistan, as well. [Unlike India] Pakistan received me in November last year. I had a good exchange of views with the Pakistani side on various aspects of the treaty, but I don’t think that there is any movement to be seen on their part towards at least signing the treaty at the moment. What I find interesting on the other hand is that India and Pakistan are engaged at present in a process of nuclear confidence-building measures between themselves. These confidence-building measures also relate to the issue of nuclear weapon test explosions. Given the situation as it is, I have encouraged my interlocutors in Pakistan at least to continue on that path. For instance, it would be interesting to see whether the two of them could not one way or the other formalize their already mutually agreed confidence-building measures on nuclear testing into some sort of a bilateral legally binding arrangement.

ACT: One of the provisions in the U.S.-India framework agreement is that the Indians will maintain their moratorium on nuclear testing.[2] Has there been any attempt, have you attempted to follow up on that discussion at all in terms of this kind of confidence-building discussion that you mentioned with Pakistan?

Ramaker: No, I’m not involved in any way in what’s going on in this sphere of nuclear cooperation between the United States and India.

ACT: Well, I was speaking specifically about this moratorium, because right now there’s sort of a bilateral moratorium between the Pakistanis and the Indians, but this was an attempt to make it broader.

Ramaker: Just to be precise, the text on nuclear testing agreed between India and Pakistan doesn’t talk in terms of a bilateral moratorium. It talks about two unilateral moratoria. So each side pledged to the other to maintain its own moratorium, and obviously any appeal to continue to adhere to the moratorium observed by one of them is in itself positive.

ACT: Can we change subjects slightly? You were reappointed during the recent Article XIV conference and right now work together with Australia, which is the coordinating state until the next Article XIV conference.[3] What efforts are you planning to undertake to accelerate entry into force during the next couple of years?

Ramaker: I think there are a number of things to be done. First of all, I tend to distinguish between two aspects of the treaty. On the one hand there is the need to continue to increase the support of the treaty in terms of the overall numbers of signatures and ratifications. Raising these numbers, many feel and I feel myself too, will strengthen the norm against nuclear weapons testing that already now exists. That is one objective. On the other hand there is of course the question of the actual entry into force of the treaty itself. As you know, of the 44 countries that have to ratify before the treaty can enter into force, we are still missing 11.[4]

I will focus on both aspects, but if I may say so in a considered way. As to the question of increasing the overall numbers of signatures of ratification, I intend to use a combination of methods, so to speak. In some cases I will make bilateral visits. In other cases I will attend regional conferences or international fora that countries that have not yet signed or ratified will attend or participate in. In the margins of these conferences I will seek meetings with their government officials - prime ministers, foreign ministers - that are there and draw their attention to the relevance and the importance of the Treaty and their country's early adherence. Of course signature and ratification by any given country in the last analysis is an internal matter. As far as signature is concerned it depends first of all on a decision that that country has to make for itself. And as far as ratification is concerned, each country of course has its own constitutional requirements that will have to be met. I have to respect that.

Secondly, there is the question of the entry into force of the Treaty proper, the second aspect I mentioned. Obviously there are among the 11 some countries whose ratification is long overdue and do not have as far as I know particular problems with the substance of the treaty. I’m thinking of Indonesia, of Vietnam, and of Colombia. Well, we already discussed Vietnam. I think they’re on the right track. I am planning a visit to Indonesia in the near future. With regard to my visit to Indonesia it is a matter of finding the right dates on which my interlocutors will be in a position to receive me and I myself will be free to travel. Anyway I do think that the time has come for our Indonesian friends to speed up the ratification process to the extent possible. Indonesia, after all, traditionally is a very active country when it comes to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. As you know, the country played an important and constructive role at the time during the [1995] Review and Extension Conference that made the NPT permanent. Indonesia played a very constructive role in the test ban negotiations as well. And, just to quote a recent example, Indonesia was part of the Norwegian initiative of seven countries a little over a month ago. As you know that initiative tried to bridge the differences that exist with regard to nonproliferation and disarmament in the framework of the World [Millennium +5] Summit. So the Indonesians have been very active in all of these areas. They have been calling for ratification of the treaty themselves quite often. So it is fair to say that they favor the treaty. Ratification by Indonesia therefore seems to be a matter of according the right priority to it rather than anything else.

ACT: What’s their explanation of why they haven’t ratified at this point?

Ramaker: Well that is what I’m going to find out when I’m there.

ACT: Can I ask you about another important holdout state: the United States?

Ramaker: I can shed no new light on the situation with regard to a possible U.S. ratification of the treaty. But I hope that in due course the U.S. would wish to revisit the question of the CTBT and analyze whether or not, on balance, it would not be better off with the treaty than without it.

ACT: Maybe we can change back to the Article XIV Conference, and can you comment on the outcome of the conference in general? What are the specific measures agreed to accelerate entry into force and are you happy with the result?

Ramaker: I think first of all that these regular conferences on facilitating entry into force are positive in themselves. The original idea stemmed in the final phase of the negotiations from Canada, when we all realized that it was going to take a long time before the treaty could enter into force. So holding a conference like the one you just mentioned has a stimulating effect in itself. In the run-up to the last conference and during the conference itself, we have seen a number of additional ratifications and at least one additional signature, which is good. If you take a look at the situation during the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of September 2003 and compare it to the present one of 2005, it is interesting to see quite an increase in the number of states that have signed and ratified. As you know Ambassador [Tom] Grönberg of the outgoing coordinating country Finland reported during the conference in New York that two years before, in September 2003, the treaty had 168 signatures. Now it has 176. Two years ago, he went on, 104 countries had ratified the treaty, but now there are 125. That represents a little over 20 percent increase in two years’ time. Of course when it comes to the list of 44 states progress is much slower. Nevertheless the overall numbers have increased quite a bit and I do think that these conferences play a role in that countries want to participate as full members and not as observers. As a result they tend therefore to speed up their internal decision-making beforehand.

Of course, as to your second question, the conference itself sends a strong signal through the very statements governments make. If I am not mistaken there were 117 delegations participating - about 40-50 at the political level - and all of them were expressing themselves very strongly in favor of ratification. And I think that in itself is very welcome. Then there was the final document adopted at the end of the conference. I noted that the media this time paid considerably more attention to the conference's outcome than in 2003. The [CTBT Organization] CTBTO in Vienna has compiled the press articles and also the internet items. That compilation has the size of a telephone book of a small city, so to speak, which is not bad. Then of course, for me the main, well, one of the main, measures adopted is to be found in the continued support in the Final Document for my own work, as special representative, which I think is very helpful.

ACT: There has been this movement, and presumably you can get some more ratifications, but is there a danger of kind of losing momentum at this point because you’re running up against the truly hard cases in this situation?

Ramaker: Yes, we are running up against the hard cases from a number of points of view. If you take the overall numbers—176 countries have signed—you should compare it with the overall membership of the United Nations. If I’m not mistaken that number is now 191. Some of those still missing haven’t signed yet because the treaty is a bit beyond their present political horizon so to speak. In other words the treaty is not really a priority for them. But in a number of other cases there are probably specific reasons why they did not sign. Of course this is obvious, for instance, for two of the three countries that didn’t join the NPT— India and Pakistan—but I think for a few others as well. Anyhow, there is still some potential for increase in the overall number of signatures.

Of course, there is a much greater potential for an increase in the number of ratifications. Here again it is often a matter of priorities and limited means. In many cases countries have quite a number of treaties waiting for ratification. In some of these cases officials told me that they were just in the process of making an inventory of all the treaties that they still had to work on. Then they will have to assign a priority to them because their capacity to do the necessary preparatory and legislative work for ratification of international instruments is indeed limited. So then my role is to say, well, do take a look at this treaty and see whether you can raise its priority in your overall legislative work.

ACT: In that context, maybe, could you more generally tell us what activities you would like to see from states that have already ratified to support entry into force and to support your work also?

Ramaker: Well, I do think that, the CTBT, indeed the entire issue of nuclear weapons tests and nonproliferation deserves a higher place in the list of priorities that states apparently use when they deal with each other. It remains important that the question of the test ban's entering into force is being raised at times at a sufficiently high - if not the highest - political level. That does not always happen unfortunately. And because in some cases countries have so many other issues to discuss with each other that they feel may be more acute that this treaty then sort of falls by the wayside. I think that is wrong and has to be changed whenever possible. On the other hand I know that quite a few countries do raise these issues at the right political level.

This last summer, for instance, when President Hu [Jintao] of China paid a state visit to the Russian Federation, the two countries, according to the final statement of that visit, agreed to work together for an early entry into force of the test ban. This means that the issue had been raised on that occasion at the highest political level—and I think that’s good.

ACT: You and many governments also at the September entry into force conference have said that the CTBT is an essential part of broader efforts to stem proliferation of nuclear weapons and to work toward nuclear disarmament. What impact do you think the failure of the NPT Review Conference in May had on your work, and what will be the consequences for the CTBT in general?

Ramaker: I would like to hope that the failure of the last NPT Review Conference to reach consensus on a final document, and subsequently of the World Summit to agree on a chapter on nonproliferation on disarmament, would focus the minds of governments on the real reasons underlying this. I would hope that, these governments as a result would give somewhat more thought to the question of how one could bridge the gaps that presently exist. So that’s the potentially positive side to these two failures in a row. Of course, it’s a pity in itself that profound differences exist in the first place, but that’s the way it is.

ACT:Given that the entry into force of the CTBT is unlikely in the short-term, some already have raised questions about the value of setting up the CTBTO and maintaining the International Monitoring System at a high level of operations. From your perspective, what is the relation between the work being done in Vienna to prepare the treaty’s verification system and the entry into force of the treaty?

Ramaker: From my perspective, which is working towards speeding up the Treaty's entry into force, the work in Vienna is very valuable. I was recently in Vienna when the new Executive Secretary [Tibor Toth] was briefing a group of visitors from the Netherlands that I was with on the progress being made in building the International Monitoring System [IMS]. It was encouraging hearing him say that two-thirds of the stations of the IMS are now up and running. Of course, there is still quite a bit of work to be done but nevertheless. There is a system of on-site inspections being worked out. This treaty, moreover, is unique in that national technical means are integral part of its verification system. What is in the works in other words, is a very, very effective verification system, which should inspire countries to have confidence that no cheating will take place once the Treaty will have taken effect. And that in itself should help in convincing countries to adhere to the Treaty. Still, I think you do have to make a distinction that if there is a non-nuclear-weapon state who wants to show the world that it possesses the capacity to develop nuclear weapons that then they may be interested in not even hiding a nuclear weapon test. But nuclear-weapon states are a different case, and between them it will be essential that they can have the full confidence that no cheating takes place, that no break-outs can take place. Therefore I believe that the work being done in Vienna, which - it should be said here - is of a very high quality, is extremely important also in the light of the promotion of the Treaty as such.

ACT: Do you have any other comments you’d like to add?

Ramaker: I think that it is of course true that under the present circumstances it may take a while before the treaty can really take effect. But the central message of all of this is that we should keep our eye on the ball and simply work continuously and steadily towards our common objective. I don’t think that there is any reason to slow down let alone give up what we’re trying to do. This goes both for the Treaty as such and for the work being done in Vienna. It may take a while, but a permanent ban on nuclear weapon test explosions remains of tremendous importance for our efforts to prevent ever more states from acquiring nuclear weapons if they do not have them yet or improving or "modernizing" them if they do. So we should simply go on with what we are doing as indeed we do.


1. “Council Common Position 2005/329/PESC of 25 April 2005 relating to the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, Council of the European Union, available at: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_106/l_10620050427en00320035.pdf

2. Meeting in Washington July 18, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to a raft of measures ranging from promoting democracy abroad to increasing bilateral space cooperation. In the two leaders’ joint statement, Bush pledged to “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India.” The president said he would ask Congress to “adjust U.S. laws and policies” and other countries to “adjust international regimes” to permit India the nuclear goods it wants. In exchange, Singh said Indian nuclear facilities would be divided into military or civilian sites and that civilian facilities would be opened to international oversight. Singh also reaffirmed Indian policies to uphold a nuclear testing moratorium, maintain strict export controls, and support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) to end the production of key nuclear materials for building nuclear weapons.

3. The Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is also known as the Article XIV Conference in reference to the section of the CTBT which allows for such conferences.

4. China , Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, the United States, and Vietnam have signed the CTBT but not ratified. India, North Korea, and Pakistan have neither signed nor ratified the treaty.