Arms Control Association Urges Action on Test Ban Treaty; Congressional Members, International Community Speak Out

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2006

Press Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107

Ten years ago this week, United Nations member-states overwhelmingly endorsed and later opened for signature the longest-sought, hardest-fought nuclear arms control treaty: the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Today, despite widespread support for the CTBT and a de facto global nuclear-test moratorium, the treaty still has not entered into force.

The conclusion of the treaty in 1996 stands as one of the greatest accomplishments of the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation movement. To date, a total of 176 states have signed the CTBT and 135 have ratified the accord. The CTBT prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." The treaty would simultaneously help constrain the qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, curb proliferation, advance disarmament, and de-legitimize nuclear weapons.

"Unfortunately, the Bush administration and governments of nine other test ban rogue states refuse or have failed to approve the treaty, thus preventing the accord from becoming legally binding," noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a long-time proponent of the CTBT. The CTBT requires ratification by a select group of 44 states before it can formally enter into force; 34 of the 44 have done so.

At the United Nations in New York this week, a group of 59 Foreign Ministers, led by those from Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, and the Netherlands, marked the 10 anniversary of the CTBT with a joint statement calling on other states to sign and ratify the treaty to allow its entry into force. (See a PDF version of the statement.)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called on member-states to show greater urgency as he highlighted the consequences of further delays. "Although there is an international norm against nuclear testing and continuing moratoria on testing, I am concerned that the treaty has yet to enter into force. Indeed, no one can guarantee that nuclear testing might one day resume, particularly when the modernization of weapons continues," Annan said in a message to a ministerial meeting on the treaty.

In Washington, there remains a large reservoir of support for the CTBT. Next week, Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) will introduce a resolution calling on the Senate to reconsider and give its advice and consent to the ratification of the CTBT.

Republican presidential hopefuls Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) noted back in 1999 that the Senate can and should reconsider the CTBT. "A clear majority of the Senate have not given up hope of finding common ground in our quest for a sound and secure ban on nuclear testing," Hagel wrote in The New York Times.

The CTBT remains on the executive calendar of the Senate despite the highly partisan Senate debate and vote against the treaty in October 1999. President Bill Clinton's September 24, 1996 signature on the CTBT also means that the United States is legally-bound not to violate the "object or purpose" of the treaty (i.e. conduct a test blast).

"The United States holds the key to changing the dynamics on the CTBT. The Bush administration's opposition to the CTBT makes little sense for the United States. There is no requirement for new warheads that would necessitate renewed U.S. testing and there is no other technical reason to resume nuclear testing," noted Kimball. "Absent U.S. ratification and CTBT entry into force, Washington risks that other states may test and denies itself and the world the monitoring and verification benefits of the CTBT's on-site inspection authority," Kimball argued.

In June, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix urged immediate action on the CTBT. The international panel, which included former Secretary of Defense William Perry, called on the United States "to reconsider its position and proceed to ratify the treaty, recognizing that its ratification would trigger other required ratifications."

Other signatory states that must also ratify the treaty before it can enter into force are China, Columbia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, and Israel. India, North Korea, and Pakistan must also sign and ratify the accord for it to take effect.

"Ratification of the CTBT will not by itself stop nuclear proliferation. But stopping nuclear proliferation is not possible without the CTBT. The United States should return to its traditional role as a test ban advocate and renew action toward a permanent and verifiable global nuclear test ban," Kimball said.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies. ACA publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.