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Reinforcing the Taboo on Nuclear Testing is in the United States' National Security Interests
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For Immediate Release: August 4, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—In response to a column written by Josh Rogin in The Washington Post, Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball issued the following comments:

President Obama addresses the Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and resolution 1887 (2009), expressing the Security Council's resolve to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. (Photo credit: UN)We applaud President Obama’s consideration of a politically-binding UN Security Council resolution this fall that would reinforce the global norm against nuclear weapon test explosions and strongly dispute the allegation made by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that such an effort would "cede the Senate’s constitutional role” on advice and consent of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
 
It is our understanding that the initiative being pursued by the administration would, as other UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have already done several times before, exhort those states that have not yet ratified the CTBT to do so and call upon all states to refrain from further nuclear testing and to support ongoing efforts to maintain the monitoring system established to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing.

With President Bill Clinton’s signature of the CTBT in 1996, the United States ended the practice of nuclear testing and today all but one state—North Korea—respects the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing. 
 
More than two decades after the last U.S. nuclear test in 1992, the United States' nuclear weapons labs are in a better position to maintain the reliability of the U.S. arsenal than during the era of nuclear weapons test explosions.
 
Clearly, in order for the United States to ratify the CTBT and the treaty to enter into force, the U.S. Senate would have to reconsider the treaty and provide its advice and consent to ratification. 
 
In the meantime, it is clearly in the interests of the United States to seek ways to reinforce the de facto global nuclear testing moratorium and make it more difficult for states, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran, from conducting nuclear test explosions.
 
We would hope that Sen. Corker and other members of Congress would not attempt to sabotage efforts to increase the political barriers against nuclear testing by other states and to reinforce the existing, but fragile, legal norm against testing that already exists.
 
As President Bill Clinton said upon his signature of the CTBT in September 1996: “The signature of the world’s declared nuclear powers… along with the vast majority of its other nations will immediately create an international norm against nuclear testing, even before the treaty enters into force.”

The most effective way to verifiably end nuclear testing is to bring the treaty into force. To succeed, U.S. leadership is essential.

Bringing the CTBT back to the Senate for another vote requires a lengthy, intensive educational and outreach campaign to present the new information, answer detailed questions, and dispel old myths and misconceptions.

It was through such a process that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was approved in 2010. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Senate has shown it is not prepared for a serious discussion of the CTBT. 

The Obama administration has made it clear in congressional hearings, including on December 1, 2015 and July 14, 2016, that it is not pursuing "a prohibition of nuclear testing through a U.N. Security Council resolution.” 

The initiative that the administration is seeking, while not legally binding, would have tremendous political value in reinforcing the global norm against testing and reduce the risk that other nations might use nuclear testing to improve or develop nuclear weapons capabilities that threaten U.S. and global security.

Finally, any efforts by Congress to withhold the U.S. contribution for the global test monitoring system could undermine long-term U.S. security by eroding our ability to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions by countries such as Russia and Iran.

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Posted: August 4, 2016