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former IAEA Director-General

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The Nuclear Test Ban and the Verifiable Denuclearization of North Korea

The head of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization offers his agency's capabilities to verify
the dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.


November 2018
By Lassina Zerbo

On October 7, the U.S. Department of State issued a readout on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meetings in Pyongyang indicating that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled.”1

A North Korean officer on May 24 explains to the invited international journalists the explosive demolition process undertaken to disable the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility. However, verification that the site is no longer usable for underground nuclear tests requires technical expertise and sophisticated analysis equipment. (Photo: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)Subsequently, Pompeo was asked by reporters when international nuclear inspectors would be allowed onto the site. Pompeo replied, “[A]s soon as we get it logistically worked out, Chairman Kim said he’s ready to allow them to come in, and there’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that, but when we get them, we’ll put them on the ground.” Pompeo had no comment to a follow-up question on which organization would be invited to conduct inspections.2

Some argue the Trump-Kim summit statement in June was light on detail about how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Denuclearization, the term itself, was not defined by the parties to this statement and may indeed have different interpretations. From my perspective as executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), it is a pity that nothing explicit was included related to ending nuclear testing, but the State Department readout on the matter is encouraging.

Verification is key to permanently ending nuclear test explosions in North Korea. At his press conference following the Singapore summit with Kim, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that denuclearization would be verifiable. This is important. Verifiable measures are at the heart of lasting nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. It must be based on the best available technologies, the best expertise, and the most rigorous protocols.

North Korea, in destroying facilities at its Punggye-ri test site on May 24, aimed to show its commitment to ending nuclear tests. Yet, the invited international journalists who witnessed the destruction from a distance are not experts able to characterize and establish a baseline of the current state of the site. So although the declared closure is welcome, those present lacked the skills and necessary specialized equipment to assess the activities that took place.

The CTBTO and its technological tools are uniquely placed to provide adequate verification and to monitor an end to nuclear tests in North Korea. On the technical side, the CTBTO can achieve this through its competencies and capabilities in remote monitoring via the International Monitoring System (IMS), as well as through expertise in in-field activities and data collection gained through the development of the On-site Inspection element of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) verification regime. The IMS is already up and running and has detected all six North Korean tests using seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide technologies at its global network of more than 300 facilities. After each test conducted by North Korea, CTBT states-signatories received raw data and analyzed products from the International Data Centre (IDC) in a timely and reliable manner.

The IMS is more than 90 percent complete, and the IDC data processing and analysis capacity continues to improve and evolve on pace with technological advancement. Two integrated field exercises have proven that the on-site inspection regime has reached an advanced state of readiness. Every nuclear test carried out by North Korea has been detected with precision and timeliness. Monitoring technologies and data have made vital contributions to disaster risk reduction and mitigation. In addition, there are countless other civil and scientific areas, such as climate change studies and earth and atmospheric sciences, where IMS data has proven to have immense value.

Ongoing dialogue and negotiations with Pyongyang have yielded important gains for regional and international security and stability. The CTBTO stands ready, within its mandate, to contribute to the process of verifiable denuclearization if called on by its states-signatories.

CTBTO Mandate

The CTBTO’s mandate is to verify compliance with the prohibition on nuclear test explosions established by the treaty. If requested, however, the CTBTO could make available its monitoring assets and expertise as part of any internationally led process to provide reliable verification of the irreversible dismantlement of the test site at Punggye-ri.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, at the ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the  CTBT on September 27. (Photo: CTBTO)The CTBTO has the in-house expertise and equipment ready to deploy should states-signatories call for it. The organization has developed considerable proficiency in areas such as surveying and in-field measurement that could be of relevance to confirming the closure of the Punggye-ri site. In-field measurement techniques and equipment that can be deployed include gamma radiation monitoring and in-situ gamma spectroscopy, environmental sampling, passive seismological monitoring (micro-arrays), magnetic and gravitational field mapping, electrical conductivity measurements, ground penetrating radar, and airborne gamma spectroscopy and multispectral imaging.

Without verification, the international community could be left wondering whether the tunnels, equipment, and other related infrastructure could be reconstituted with little delay should negotiations on denuclearization and peace come to a halt or an agreement break down.

Specifically, concerning the verification of test-site closures, the CTBTO can potentially offer key operational verification tasks starting with a site characterization survey to ascertain and document the state of the site after its reported closure. The survey, including in-field measurements and environmental sampling, would also provide a baseline of the current state of the site.

Long-term verification could include periodic site visits to compare to the baseline, along with ongoing local seismic monitoring, and ongoing remote monitoring through the IMS. This is what the CTBTO is capable of doing. As the treaty is not yet in force, on-site inspections cannot therefore take place in line with its provisions, but the potential indeed exists for utilizing CTBT monitoring technologies and inspection expertise.

Joining the CTBT       

The path to the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula runs through the CTBT. Any final agreement with North Korea must include signature and ratification of the treaty. The opportunity to demonstrate to the world the value of the treaty and efficacy of the most sophisticated and far-reaching verification regime ever devised should not be missed.

North Korea is not yet a signatory to the treaty. If the country is serious about confidence building, at the very least it should match the United States’ signature without delay. There is really no downside to doing so. In fact, earlier this year, North Korea’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament announced that the North will “join international disarmament efforts for a total ban on nuclear tests.” This can logically mean only one thing: joining the CTBT.

Matching the United States by signing the CTBT would be a powerful indication of the willingness of North Korea’s leadership to move toward verifiable denuclearization. Taking this leap would also contribute to the regime integrating with the community of states who already adhere to an international no-test norm. It would contribute to bringing North Korea back onto the world stage as a responsible member of the international community.

Joining the CTBT could be a precursor to inviting the organization to view the test site. This would not be without precedent: other CTBT states-signatories have invited the CTBTO to conduct activities at other former nuclear weapons test sites. The former Soviet test site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan has hosted a number of on-site inspection field tests and exercises. The CTBTO was invited to witness the closing of the French test sites of Moruroa and Fangatayufa in 1999.

On September 25, the CTBTO welcomed the ratification of the treaty by Thailand and the signing by Tuvalu. The CTBT now has 184 states-signatories and 167 ratifying states. The support and resolve by Thailand and Tuvalu taking such actions have strengthened global efforts to achieve a nuclear-test-free world. With each signature and ratification, there is a growing chorus of voices demanding an end to nuclear testing that becomes more and more difficult to ignore.

The de facto norm against nuclear testing underpinned by the CTBT is stronger than ever. It continues to be vital to international peace and security, and although it may feel as if some international institutions and regimes are starting to fray, global support for the treaty continues to rise. Yet, this momentum cannot be sustained without the unwavering support and commitment by states-signatories.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono co-chairs the ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the CTBT on September 27. The joint statement, organized by Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands and endorsed by other states, urges North Korea “to sign and ratify the CTBT as a matter of priority.” (Photo: CTBTO)In order to achieve the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear tests, it is important to ensure that opportunities are identified and acted on. Regrettably, there have been missed opportunities over the years where the CTBT, along with the monitoring assets, expertise, and infrastructure available at the CTBTO, could have been used in important ways to advance international peace and security. During the high-level UN Security Council meeting on the nonprolifereration of weapons of mass destruction on September 26, CTBT supporters had the opportunity to make a strong case for the treaty and its entry into force. These are the stages and platforms where they should consistently and emphatically promote the urgency of the entry into force of the CTBT. These are the moments to seize and act on, not the moments to squander away due to politics.

Unique Opportunity

Current developments on the Korean peninsula may provide a unique opportunity for the CTBT. North Korea is one of the eight remaining CTBT Annex 2 states, whose ratifications are needed for entry into force.3 It is vital not to miss this opportunity to demonstrate to the world the value of the treaty and the efficacy of one of the most sophisticated and far-reaching verification regimes ever devised.

All states, particularly North Korea, should join in this historic journey to put an end to nuclear tests through the entry into force and universalization of the CTBT. Together, we will ensure nuclear tests become a relic of the past. By doing so, we will put in place one of the most practical and achievable elements of a nuclear-weapons-free world.4
 

ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, “Secretary Pompeo's Meetings in Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea,” October 7, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/10/286482.htm.

2. Michael Pompeo, “Remarks with Traveling Press,” October 8, 2017, https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/10/286490.htm.

3. Although 184 states have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, eight Annex 2 states (China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United States) need to complete their ratification procedures before the treaty can enter into force.

4. Lassina Zerbo, Address to the Ninth Friends of the CTBT Ministerial Meeting, New York, September 27, 2018, https://www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/user_upload/public_information/2018/Ministerial_Meeting/Ninth_Friends_of_
the_CTBT_Ministerial_Meeting_Statement_by_ES_FINAL.pdf
.

 


Lassina Zerbo is the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

 

 

Posted: November 1, 2018

MEDIA ADVISORY: Head of CTBTO Describes Inspection Option for North Korea Nuclear Test Site

Sections:

Description: 

New Analysis by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo Published in Arms Control Today

Body: 

New Analysis by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo Published in Arms Control Today

For Immediate Release: Oct. 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, publisher, Arms Control Today, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kirstie Hansen, CTBTO Public Information Officer in Vienna, [email protected]

(Washington, D.C.)—Earlier this year, North Korea committed to closing its nuclear test site and invited journalists to view the destruction of test tunnels at its main nuclear test site.

As Dr. Lassina Zerbo writes in a new article in the journal Arms Control Today, “although the declared closure is welcome, those present lacked the skills and necessary specialized equipment to assess the activities that took place.”

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Oct. 7 indicating that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled.” To date, it is not clear who would inspect the site and under what terms.

“The CTBTO and its technological tools,” Zerbo writes, “are uniquely placed to provide adequate verification and to monitor an end to nuclear tests in North Korea.”

Zerbo, who is serving in his second term as the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, describes in detail the technologies the CTBTO can provide to verify the closure of a nuclear test site, and, he explains the value of North Korean signature and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) for the denuclearization process.

“The path to the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula runs through the CTBT,” Zerbo writes. The CTBT has been signed by 184 states and ratified by 167. North Korea is not yet a signatory.

A large group of foreign ministers issued a joint statement Sept. 27 organized by Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands urging North Korea “to sign and ratify the CTBT as a matter of priority.”

“It is vital not to miss this opportunity to demonstrate to the world the value of the treaty and the efficacy of one of the most sophisticated and far-reaching verification regimes ever devised,” Zerbo says in the article.

The Nuclear Test Ban and the Verifiable Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” by Lassina Zerbo will appear in the November 2018 issue of Arms Control Today. It is available in advance online here

Country Resources:

Posted: October 18, 2018

CTBT Grows Amid Calls on N. Korea to Join

Thailand becomes 167th country to ratify the treaty.


October 2018
By Shervin Taheran

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has gained some renewed attention as nations called on North Korea to join the treaty as a way to demonstrate its sincerity in declaring an end to its nuclear testing.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo (2nd from right) looks on as the prime minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on September 25.  With the addition of Tuvalu, the number of signatory states grew to 184. Thailand became the 167th country to ratify the CTBT. (Photo: CTBTO)Meanwhile, Thailand became the 167th country to ratify the CTBT. With the Sept. 25 signature by the island nation of Tuvalu, the number of signatories was brought to 184. But the treaty will not enter into force until it is ratified by the eight remaining nations listed in its Annex 2: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United States.

At a ministerial-level meeting of the “Friends of the CTBT” states Sept. 27, the foreign ministers of Australia and Japan, who co-chaired the meeting, and of Belgium, Finland, Iraq, Japan, and the Netherlands called on North Korea to ratify the CTBT.

The meeting reinforced a message sent to North Korea in June by the foreign ministers of Belgium and Iraq urging a “legally binding and irreversible end” to its nuclear testing, such as through the signature and ratification of the CTBT, as part of a denuclearization agreement. Belgium and Iraq are co-presidents of the 2017 Article XIV Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the CTBT and will continue in this role until the next Article XIV conference in 2019.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini reaffirmed this sentiment in remarks at the meeting, urging North Korea to join the CTBT “without delay.” She noted that verifying the closure of the North Korean nuclear test site “could benefit” from the technical assistance of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

There has not been much public discussion about what the technical verification of the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear test site would look like, and questions remain about the roles of the CTBTO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in such a process. At a Sept. 6 UN event marking the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said that the organization is ready, if called upon, “to contribute to the process of verifiable denuclearization.”

Miroslav Lajčák, president of the UN General Assembly and Slovakia’s foreign minister, at the Sept. 6 event noted that North Korea’s decisions to suspend nuclear and missile tests were positive steps. Still, he said that signing and ratifying the CTBT “would lead to progress on the Korean peninsula.”

Thailand’s ratification is the last for a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “thereby reaffirming ASEAN’s long term goal of making the region of Southeast Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone,” said Virasakdi Futrakul, Thailand’s deputy foreign minister.

Posted: October 1, 2018

Nuclear Testing and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Timeline

August 2018

Contact: Daryl KimballExecutive Director, (202) 463-7280 x107

Updated: August 2018

It is widely understood that nuclear weapons have only been used twice in wartime and with terrible consequences. Often overlooked is the fact that they have been “used” elsewhere—through more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions by at least eight countries since 1945.

These nuclear test explosions have been used to develop new nuclear warhead designs and to demonstrate nuclear weapons capabilities by the world’s nuclear-armed states. The tests, particularly the atmospheric detonations, have negatively affected the lives and health of millions of people around the globe.  In response, ordinary citizens, scientists, legislators, and government leaders have pursued a multi-decade effort to bring into force a global verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban.

A global halt to nuclear weapons testing was first proposed in 1954 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as a step toward ending the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear proliferation. A ban on nuclear testing has been a key national security objective of the United States since the late-1950s, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower initiated U.S.-UK-USSR comprehensive test ban negotiations.

In 1962-1963, President John F. Kennedy pursued comprehensive test ban talks with Russia, but the two sides could not agree on the number of on-site inspections. Instead, the two sides agreed to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear test explosions in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.

Since the late-1960s, the conclusion of a comprehensive ban against nuclear testing has also been understood to be an essential part of the nuclear weapon states’ commitment to fulfill their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI nuclear disarmament commitments.

President Jimmy Carter again sought to negotiate a comprehensive test ban treaty with Russia from 1977-1980, but that effort also fell short as U.S.-Soviet relations soured after Moscow's invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1991, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced a unilateral nuclear test moratorium. Later that year, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress for a reciprocal test moratorium. The legislation, which became law in 1992, mandated a 9-month moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions. In July 1993, President Bill Clinton decided to extend the U.S. test moratorium.

From 1994-96, the world's nations came together to negotiate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear test explosions and is intended to help curb the spread of nuclear weapons and impede nuclear arms competition.

On September 24, 1996, the United States was the first nation to sign the CTBT, which prohibits all nuclear weapon test explosions or other nuclear explosions, but the Senate rejected ratification in 1999 and the treaty has yet to enter into force.

In recent years, international support for the CTBT has grown and the global test ban monitoring and verification system has matured. Entry into force requires ratification by 44 specific countries listed in Annex 2 of the treaty, including the United States.

On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama said: "To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned."

The following are key events in the history of nuclear testing and the nuclear test ban.


Skip to: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s

1940s

Image of the first nuclear test explosion in New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (Library of Congress Photo)July 16, 1945: At 5:30 a.m. near Alamagordo, New Mexico, the United States conducts the first ever nuclear test explosion, code-named Trinity.

August 6 and 9, 1945: The United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to over 340,000 casualties by 1950.

1946-1962: The United States conducts 193 atmospheric tests, mainly in the Pacific and Nevada, involving over 200,000 military and civilian personnel of which, 2,000-3,000 military personnel were used as subjects of government-sponsored medical research. Thousands of other civilians and soldiers are also directly affected or involved in test explosions conducted by other nuclear powers.

August 29, 1949: The Soviet Union conducts its first nuclear test explosion, accelerating the nuclear arms race. By 1962, the Soviet Union explodes a total of 142 atmospheric nuclear tests. Back to top.

1950s

October 3, 1952: The United Kingdom conducts its first nuclear test in Western Australia.

November 1, 1952: The United States’ Ivy Mike nuclear test, the first test of a hydrogen bomb, results in a 10 megaton explosion, which obliterates the island of Elugelab in the Marshall chain in the Pacific.An image of the Yankee nuclear test of the Castle series on May 14, 1954. At 13.5 megatons, the Yankee test was the second largest nuclear test in U.S. history. (National Archives, Air Force Collection Photo)

1954: The United States’ Castle test series and Soviet tests in Siberia arouse international outrage about radioactive fallout, particularly after the 15 megaton Castle Bravo test contaminates the Marshall Islands and the Japanese fishing vessel, Lucky Dragon. The hydrogen bomb tests prompt the formation of the Japanese Committee Against A & H Tests. 

April 2, 1954: Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposes a nuclear testing "standstill" agreement, which is later forwarded to the United Nations Disarmament Commission. Albert Einstein and Pope Pius XII later call for a cessation of nuclear testing.

May 10, 1954: The Soviet Union proposes, for the first time by either superpower, a nuclear test ban as the initial step toward nuclear disarmament.

1957: The United Kingdom conducts its first hydrogen bomb test and the United States and the Soviet Union accelerate testing. These countries conduct 42 above ground nuclear blasts during the year.

1957: Otto Hahn, the scientist who split the uranium atom in 1938, joins eighteen of his colleagues in pledging to have nothing to do with nuclear weapons development or testing. Chemist and Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling circulates a petition calling for a test ban, which is signed by 9,000 scientists in 43 countries. The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE) places ads in major newspapers calling attention to the perils of nuclear war. Thousands of letters protesting continued nuclear testing are sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

May 1957: The United States and the Soviet Union trade test ban and weapons production cut-off proposals but fail to reach an agreement, due in part to opposition from U.S. nuclear weapons scientists. In the summer, the American Friends Service Committee, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the World Council of Churches circulate petitions calling for an end to all nuclear tests.

March 31, 1958: The Soviet Union announces a unilateral suspension of testing after completing their latest series of blasts.

April 8, 1958: President Eisenhower proposes a technical conference to explore test ban verification. Citizens in the United States are joined by citizens in Europe, led by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, in creating a climate of support for a test moratorium and test ban talks.

August 22, 1958: President Eisenhower proposes a one-year test moratorium if the Soviets also refrain from testing and the initiation of U.S.-UK-USSR test ban negotiations, which begin on October 31.

1959: Test ban negotiations continue in Geneva despite opposition from lab scientists about test ban verification. Back to top.

1960s

February 13, 1960: France conducts it first nuclear test explosion in Algeria.

February 1960: The Eisenhower administration redoubles its diplomatic efforts by proposing a phased approach to achieving a comprehensive nuclear test ban. The proposal is endorsed by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and with some further modifications, it is positively received by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, making it likely that the test ban treaty could be signed at the Paris summit that both Eisenhower and Krushchev have agreed to attend in May. However, the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union on May 1 wrecks the chance for the Paris summit and the chance for a test ban agreement.

January-July, 1961: President John F. Kennedy accelerates U.S. nuclear weapons deployments and East-West relations deteriorate over the Berlin crisis.

August 1961: Soviet nuclear tests resume, followed by the resumption of U.S. testing in September.

October 30, 1961: The Soviet Union conducts the largest nuclear test explosion ever—a 58 megaton atmospheric blast code-named Tsar Bomba.

November 1, 1961: Approximately 100,000 women in 110 American communities leave their homes and offices in a national "strike" for a test ban, leading to the formation of Women Strike for Peace. Boston area physicians form Physicians for Social Responsibility, which documents the presence of strontium-90, a by-product of nuclear tests, in the teeth of children across the United States and worldwide.

March 1962: The Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) is established. The ENDC, later to become the Conference on Disarmament (CD), will continue multilateral discussions on the test ban for over three decades.

October 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis brings the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of all out nuclear war.

November 1962-April 1963: Norman Cousins, a prominent U.S. citizen and leader of SANE, meets with President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev several times privately to urge both leaders to find a way ease tensions and break the impasse on the test ban negotiations.

June 8, 1963: Soviet Premier Khrushchev invites UK and U.S. negotiators to a conference in Moscow in July to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

June 10, 1963: President Kennedy accepts the Soviet invitation for renewed talks in his commencement address at American University. He argues that peace without competition between the United States and the Soviet Union is not possible, but the prevention of nuclear war is.

July 15, 1963: U.S., UK, and Soviet negotiators meet in Moscow to try to work out an agreement on a comprehensive nuclear test ban. However, due to disagreements concerning on-site inspections, agreement on a comprehensive ban is not reached. Negotiators turn their attention to the conclusion of a limited ban, prohibiting tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and beneath the surface of the seas.

President John Kennedy signing the Limited Test Ban Treaty. (National Nuclear Security Administration Photo)July 25, 1963: The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) is initialed by the U.S., UK and Soviet representatives, W. Averell Harriman, Viscount Quinton Hailsham, and Andrei Gromyko, respectively. On August 5, the LTBT is officially signed by the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union. 

July 26, 1963: President Kennedy addresses the nation on the merits of the LTBT and asks for their support in ensuring Senate approval.

August 8, 1963: President Kennedy places the treaty before the Senate for its advice and consent. Citizens Committee for a Nuclear Test Ban is formed. SANE and prominent physicians place pro-ratification ads in major newspapers.

September 24, 1963: The U.S. Senate votes to provide its advice and consent for ratification of the LTBT by a vote of 80 to 14.

October 11, 1963: The LTBT enters into force, but nuclear weapons development and production continue with underground nuclear testing.

October 16, 1964: China explodes its first nuclear bomb—a 20-kiloton atmospheric blast—at Lop Nor in northwestern China.

July 1, 1968: The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is signed in Washington, London, and Moscow. Among other obligations, the NPT requires parties to the treaty to "seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end.” Back to top.

1970s

September 15, 1971: Greenpeace activists sail from Vancouver to Amchitka, Alaska, intent on stopping a scheduled U.S. nuclear test, which fuels further public opposition to testing. Within a year, the United States cancels further tests at Amchitka for "political and other reasons."

1972-1974: Australia and New Zealand ask the International Court of Justice to halt continuing French atmospheric tests in Polynesia and send naval vessels to the test area to signal their opposition. Greenpeace sails into the French testing zone in protest of the explosions in what is the first of several actions against French testing.

A crater marks the site of India’s May 18, 1974 underground nuclear test at Pokhran in the desert state of Rajasthan. (Punjab Photo/AFP/Getty Images)

May 1974: On May 18, India conducts its first nuclear test in the Thar Desert near its border with Pakistan. Bowing to international pressure, France announces all of its future nuclear tests will be conducted underground.

1974-1976: The United States and the Soviet Union conclude the Threshold Test Ban and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaties limiting military and non-military underground tests to explosive yields below 150 kilotons. However, they continue to design, develop and produce new weapons. It is not until 1990, after a stronger verification protocol is negotiated, that both treaties enter into force.

1977-1980: U.S., UK, and Soviet negotiators make substantial progress toward an agreement on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but opposition from the Pentagon, Energy Department, and Congress, combined with the deterioration of East-West relations after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, scuttle the chance for a test ban agreement as well as further controls on U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals.

1979: At a meeting organized by the American Friends Service Committee, U.S. arms control and peace groups agree to pursue a new approach on nuclear disarmament: a mutual and verifiable freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons to be followed by reductions in nuclear arsenals. Later, the concept leads to the formation of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, which merged with SANE in 1986, to form what is now known as Peace Action. Back to top.

1980s

1981: Fear of nuclear war increases as the Reagan administration embarks on massive nuclear buildup and East-West tensions worsen. A December NBC/Associated Press survey finds that 76% of the U.S. public believe that a nuclear war is "likely" within a few years.

November 1981: The Union of Concerned Scientists and dozens of other citizen groups organize nuclear war teach-ins on 151 campuses in 41 states. Physicians for Social Responsibility showcase the potential devastating medical effects of nuclear war.

March 1982: Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) introduce a nuclear-freeze resolution that is supported by 150 representatives and 20 senators.

May 1982: Ground Zero national education week on nuclear war prompts thousands to sign nuclear-freeze petitions.

June 1982: Approximately 750,000 people gather in New York's Central Park during the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament to call for an end to the nuclear arms race.

July 1982: President Ronald Reagan decides to set aside the comprehensive nuclear test ban effort, calling it a "long-term" U.S. objective, which allows the United States to pursue the development and deployment of new nuclear warheads.

November 1982: Voters in eight U.S. states overwhelmingly pass referenda calling for a mutual and verifiable freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.

1983: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delivers a pastoral letter calling for a halt to the testing and production of nuclear weapons, and is joined by national Protestant and Jewish organizations in support of a nuclear freeze.

1985: Arms control groups form the U.S. Comprehensive Test Ban Coalition. By 1991, the coalition includes over 75 national arms control, peace, faith, environmental, labor, and civic organizations.

1985-1987: The Soviet Union announces a unilateral test moratorium, partly in response to personal appeals to President Mikhail Gorbachev from leaders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

1986: Physicians for Social Responsibility organizes "Code Blue" congressional lobbying events on the test ban. The U.S. House of Representatives passes a non-binding resolution (224-155) led by Reps. Patricia Schroeder (R-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) calling for a one-year U.S. testing moratorium if the Soviet Union accepts on-site-inspections.

1986: U.S. President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland and discuss nuclear disarmament but fail to reach an agreement.

1986-1993: Annual protests at the Nevada Test Site involving 3,000 to 9,000 people maintain public awareness of the continuation of nuclear testing and weapons development. In 1988 alone, over 14,000 people attend two nuclear testing protests at the test site with over 4,000 people arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.

August 1988: Six non-aligned states request a special conference to consider amending the 1963 LTBT to make it comprehensive.

Kazakh citizens gather to demand a nuclear test ban at the Soviet nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk in August 1989. (UN Photo/MB)

1988: Physicians for Social Responsibility and five other groups sponsor the First International Scientific Symposium on a Nuclear Test Ban, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The American Medical Association and the American Public Health Associations pass resolutions calling for a CTBT.

February 1989: Olzhas Suleimenov, a popular Kazakh poet and writer, forms the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement (NSM) in cooperation with leaders of the Western Shoshone nation to oppose further nuclear testing in Kazakhstan and elsewhere. Meetings and demonstrations are organized in many Kazakh and Soviet cities, including Moscow. The Soviets are forced to cancel 11 of 18 scheduled tests in 1989. Back to top.

1990s

January 1991: The LTBT Amendment Conference convenes but no decision is made to amend the limited test ban into a comprehensive one because of opposition from the declared nuclear powers.

August 29, 1991: The Soviet Semipalatinsk nuclear test site officially closes. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopts resolution 64/35 which designates Aug. 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, 

October 5, 1991: President Gorbachev announces a unilateral, one-year moratorium on Soviet nuclear testing and invites the United States to join. Prompted by national disarmament groups and Oregon peace groups, on October 29 a bipartisan congressional coalition led by Rep. Kopetski (D-Ore.) and Sen. Hatfield (R-Ore.) introduces legislation that would impose a one-year U.S. testing moratorium.

October 29, 1991: 112 Members of the House of Representatives led by Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Rep. Kopetski (D-Ore.) introduce a bill (H.R. 3636) to establish a 1-year moratorium on U.S. nuclear weapons tests. A companion bil would later be introduced by Sen. Hatfield (R-Ore.) and others in the Senate.

December 25, 1991The Soviet Union dissolves into 12 separate republics and Gorbachev resigns as president of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin assumes the presidency of the newly independent Russian state. 

April 8, 1992: French President François Mitterrand announces a unilateral French nuclear testing moratorium.

June 1992: Russian President Boris Yeltsin extends the Soviet test moratorium.

September 13, 1992: After a sustained national grassroots lobbying campaign led by disarmament groups, the U.S. Senate adopts the "Hatfield-Exon" amendment to require a nine-month U.S. testing moratorium, strict conditions on any further U.S. testing and require the start of global test ban negotiations and a prohibition on U.S. testing after September 30, 1996, unless another nation conducts a test. The test moratorium amendment is approved 55-40. On September 24, the U.S. House of Representatives adopts the "Hatfield-Exon" amendment by a margin of 224-151 and on October 2, President George H. W. Bush reluctantly signs the law containing the test moratorium legislation.

September 23, 1992: The United States conducts its 1,030th—and last—nuclear weapons test explosion, a 20 kiloton detonation at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, codenamed "Divider". 

January 1993: At a meeting organized by Greenpeace, Peace Action, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, pro-CTBT groups agree that in order to keep prospects for a test ban alive, the U.S. moratorium must be extended and CTBT talks must be initiated.

March 3, 1993: National Security Advisor Anthony Lake orders completion of an interagency review of U.S. policy on nuclear testing and a comprehensive test ban.

April 1993: CTBT advocates uncover a Clinton administration draft plan to renew U.S. testing and to substitute a one-kiloton threshold treaty in place of a comprehensive treaty. On April 30, The Washington Post broke the story, triggering national debate. Physicians for Social Responsibility, Greenpeace and other groups place pro-CTBT, "Don't Blow It Bill" ads in major newspapers.

May 1993: Sens. J. James Exon (D-Neb.), Hatfield (R-Ore.), and George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Rep. Kopetski (D-Ore.) express opposition to the one-kiloton plan. At the urging of pro-CTBT groups, they and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) organize letters from 38 senators and 159 representatives in support of a moratorium extension and a total ban. Editorials from 46 leading newspapers almost entirely favor extending the moratorium. Polls show 72% of the U.S. public favor continuing the moratorium.

June 1993: The Clinton administration debates nuclear testing policy, with the Energy Department, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the White House Science Advisor favoring extension of the moratorium.

July 3, 1993: President Clinton announces he will extend the moratorium through at least 1994 unless another nation conducts a test and will pursue completion of a CTBT by September 1996. Clinton states that the current U.S. arsenal is "safe and reliable" and that there is no immediate need for further tests.

August 10, 1993: The Conference on Disarmament (CD) agrees to give its Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban a mandate to begin negotiations on a CTBT in January 1994.

December 16, 1993: The United Nations unanimously adopts a resolution calling on the CD to proceed with the negotiation of a CTBT as rapidly as possible.

January 1994: CTBT negotiations begin at the CD in Geneva. Pro-CTBT groups press negotiators to complete talks by the end of the year and begin an effort to ban all nuclear test explosions, including low-yield hydronuclear explosions. A worldwide petition drive amasses 1 million signatures for a CTBT and is delivered to the president of the CD at the outset of the negotiations.

June 1994: The U.S. House of Representatives votes 263-156 on a resolution offered by Rep. Kopetski (D-Ore.), urging completion of the CTBT by the end of 1994.

September 7, 1994: The CD ends CTBT talks for the year without an agreement. Pro-CTBT groups learn of a U.S. proposal to make a CTBT only 10 years long in duration and begin efforts to force the United States to withdraw the idea.

January 1995: U.S. officials announce that they will pursue a test ban that is permanent in duration. CTBT talks resume in Geneva without agreement on the scope of the treaty, with the declared nuclear states favoring low-yield, hydronuclear tests under a CTBT. Australia begins a diplomatic effort to get consensus on a zero-yield test ban.

March 1995:  U.S. officials announce the extension of the U.S. moratorium.

April-May 1995: Over 180 nations meet and agree to indefinitely extend the NPT and conclude CTBT negotiations by no later than 1996. China conducts a nuclear test one day after the conclusion of the NPT review and extension conference.

June 13, 1995: Newly-elected French President Jacques Chirac announces France will resume nuclear testing before signing a CTBT, which foments international outrage and a spontaneous worldwide consumer boycott of French goods. U.S. officials debate a new proposal, backed by the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling for the United States to pursue a 500-ton threshold test ban that would allow low-yield blasts.

Late-June 1995: Pro-CTBT groups rally a group of 24 senators and 113 representatives to urge Clinton to reject low-yield tests and to support "a truly comprehensive test ban."

July-August 1995: Over 35,000 citizens deliver calls and letters to the White House calling for a truly comprehensive nuclear test ban. The Clinton administration debates the 500-ton threshold proposal, with the National Security Council, Energy Department, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and White House Science Advisor favoring a zero-yield CTBT.

August 8, 1995: A new technical report by former weapons scientists is released that refutes the argument that there is a need for low-yield nuclear tests.

August 10, 1995: In response to constituent pressure and public opposition to French testing, the U.S. Senate unanimously adopts a resolution introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) condemning continued French and Chinese nuclear testing. Shortly thereafter, French President Chirac announces France will support a zero-yield test ban.

August 11, 1995: President Clinton announces his support for a "true zero yield" test ban.

September 6, 1995: France renews nuclear testing despite international opposition and efforts by Greenpeace vessels to reach the test zone. CTBT talks in Geneva end for the year without producing an agreement.

September 14, 1995: The United Kingdom announces it will support a zero-yield CTBT.

January 1996: CTBT talks resume in Geneva as India announces it will only support a test ban agreement if the declared weapon states commit to a time-bound nuclear disarmament framework. India later announces it does not intend to sign the treaty. China insists on allowing peaceful nuclear explosions. Pro-CTBT citizen groups in the U.S. and dozens of other countries write, call, and meet with CD representatives to urge completion of a zero-yield CTBT by the end of the year and to urge nations not to support India's conditions for supporting the CTBT, but rather to support disarmament through separate initiatives.

Jan. 27, 1996: France conducts its last test.

May-June 1996: China drops its insistence on peaceful explosions, but new disagreements emerge on verification issues and entry-into-force. Pro-CTBT groups worldwide press the declared and undeclared nuclear powers to reach agreement on verification and to support a "flexible" entry-into-force formula.

June 18, 1996: The United States indicates its willingness to allow an entry-into-force formula that requires all nuclear capable states to ratify the CTBT, making a flexible formula less likely.

June 26, 1996: Pro-CTBT groups rally Senate support for the CTBT and defeat the Kyl-Reid nuclear testing amendment by a margin of 53-45. The amendment authored by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would have allowed the President to conduct nuclear tests even under a CTBT.

June 28, 1996: CD Chairman Jaap Ramaker presents a final CTBT text for member-states of the conference to consider.

July 29, 1996: CTBT talks resume in Geneva. China sets off a nuclear test blast and announces it will not test after September 1996.

July-August 1996: Verification disputes are settled, but India announces it will block agreement on the CTBT at the CD.

August 1996: Consensus on a final CTBT text is blocked by India and Iran, ostensibly due to the failure to include pledges on disarmament. Australia intensifies its work to bring the CTBT directly to the UN for endorsement. Pro-test ban citizens’ organizations worldwide press the United States, other nuclear powers, and non-nuclear-weapon states to support the Australian CTBT resolution.

September 10, 1996: With 127 co-sponsors for the Australian CTBT resolution, a special session of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approves the CTBT by a margin of 158 to 3, with five abstentions, opening the way for CTBT signature and ratification.

President Bill Clinton signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on September 24, 1996. (CTBTO Photo)September 24, 1996: The CTBT opens for signature at the UN in New York. On the first day, 71 countries sign the CTBT, including the United States.

June 10, 1997: Seven U.S. senators make floor speeches on the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's historic address at American University and call for the prompt approval of the CTBT by the U.S. Senate.

July 15, 1997: In a floor speech, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) notes, "There are certainly benefits to a comprehensive test ban treaty, but there are also costs and risks…." He also adds that he is "leaning strongly in support of the international treaty."

August 1997: A "seismic event" occurs near the Russian nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya. Initial reports suggest that the event might be a Russian nuclear test. However, the U.S. government later determines that the event occurred in the Arctic Ocean, 130km from the Russian test site, and the data suggests the event was in fact an earthquake.

September 22, 1997: President Clinton transmits the CTBT to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent for ratification.

January 21, 1998: Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes to President Clinton and argues that Senate consideration of the CTBT should wait until the Senate addresses "higher priority" issues, such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Kyoto Climate Treaty.

January 27, 1998: In his annual State of the Union address, President Clinton calls on the Senate to approve the CTBT in 1998 and secures support for the treaty from four former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nuclear weapons laboratory directors, and the members of NATO.

February 10, 1998: President Clinton replies to Sen. Helms (R-N.C.) arguing that the CTBT should be ratified in 1998.

April 6, 1998: The United Kingdom and France both ratify the CTBT, after jointly signing it on September 24, 1996, becoming the first two nations who have tested nuclear weapons to ratify the treaty.

May 11 and 13, 1998: India, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Hindu-nationalist Bhara Janata Party, announces India has conducted five underground nuclear test explosions in the Thar Desert. The tests are met with global condemnation and calls for India to sign and ratify the CTBT without conditions.

May 13, 1998: Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.) draft and circulate a resolution calling for Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings and a vote on the CTBT "as expeditiously as possible."

May 15-17, 1998: A new national opinion survey is conducted to gauge public approval/disapproval of Senate approval of the CTBT. The results show that the American public continues to support the CTBT by an overwhelming majority (73% approve of Senate ratification; 16% disapprove; 11% don't know). Among those who heard about the Indian nuclear test (63% of respondents), approval was even higher (78% approve, only 15% disapprove).

May 28 and 30, 1998: Pakistan announces it has conducted six nuclear test explosions. The tests are met with global condemnation and calls for Pakistan and India to sign and ratify the CTBT without conditions.

May 28, 1998: U.S. disarmament and peace groups across the country stage protests and rallies at embassies, consulates, and local Senate offices calling on India and Pakistan to stop nuclear testing and for the U.S. Senate to approve the CTBT.

May-June 1998: Dozens of protests to condemn the tests are held in India involving a spectrum of prominent citizens. In addition, a new organization of professionals, the Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament (MIND), is formed. In Pakistan, despite the imposed state of emergency banning protests following its tests, intellectuals and activists sign a petition calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nongovernmental organizations and professionals hold a conference to condemn the tests by India and Pakistan and the ensuing arms race in South Asia. The Pakistani Coalition for Nonproliferation (CNFP) is formed to urge Pakistan to sign the CTBT and to take other steps to prevent an arms build-up.

January-August 1999: In the late spring of 1999, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and pro-treaty nongovernmental organizations redouble efforts to raise attention to the plight of the CTBT and to press the Senate leadership to begin the process of considering the treaty.

July 20, 1999: A bipartisan group of nine senators hold a press briefing, citing overwhelming public support for the treaty and calling for prompt Senate action. That same day, all 45 Democratic senators write to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), asking for “all necessary hearings...to report the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for timely consideration” by October 1999. As he has done for nearly two years, Sen. Helms (R-N.C.) rebuffs his Senate colleagues’ request.

August 1999: Most in the Clinton administration remain dubious about the prospect of real action on the treaty, and little more is done to build support.

August and September 1999: Treaty opponents accelerate preparations for a possible vote on final passage. James Schlesinger, who once headed the Defense and Energy Departments, and Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) step up their lobbying efforts against the treaty with uncommitted Republican senators.

Late-September 1999: Without information about the opposition’s lobbying effort, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), along with other leading Senate CTBT proponents and the White House, decides to try to introduce a nonbinding Senate resolution that called for beginning the process for Senate consideration of the CTBT and scheduling a vote on the treaty by March 31, 2000. The resolution, however, was never introduced.

September 29, 1999: Having been informed of the Democrats’ intention to introduce their resolution, Sens. Helms (R-N.C.) and Lott (R-Miss.) abandon their blocking strategy and propose a vote on final passage of the treaty by October 7. According to Sen. Kyl (R-Ariz.), 34 senators have already been persuaded to vote against ratification, by September 14.

Lott’s initial proposal for 10 hours of debate on the treaty with only six days’ notice is not accepted by the Democratic leadership. Some Senate supporters, the White House, and the NGO community criticize the offer, calling it a “rush to judgment.” In consultation with the White House, Senate Democratic leaders negotiate for more time and a more thorough series of hearings.

October 1, 1999: Senate Democrats decide to accept Sen. Lott’s (R-Miss.) final “take it or leave it” counteroffer for a vote as soon as October 12. With the final vote on the CTBT just days away, President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen finally launch a high-profile effort to win Senate support for the treaty. However, the effort was simply too little too late. By the end of October 8, the first day of Senate floor debate, the most crucial of these Republican senators have declared their intention to vote against the treaty.

October 6-8, 1999: The first Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or the Article XIV Conference, is held in Vienna. Article XIV of the CTBT stipulates that if the CTBT has not entered into force three years after its opening for signature (September 24, 1996), the Depository will hold a conference, and every two years after, to facilitate the treaty’s entry into force.

October 12, 1999: Recognizing that the votes needed for ratification are not there and the damage a rejection of the treaty could cause, 62 senators write to the leadership on October 12 “in support of putting off final consideration until the next Congress.”

On the eve of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are on the verge of an agreement to postpone the vote; but Sens. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.), Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Bob Smith (R-N.H.) reportedly race to the majority leader’s office to tell him that they are prepared to block any new agreement that would postpone the vote.

October 13, 1999: The U.S. Senate rejects the CTBT by a vote of 51-48.

November 10, 1999: U.S. Secretary of State Albright announces the formation of an administration-appointed task force, which will be led by retired General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to work with key senators to address concerns regarding the CTBT and make recommendations about its future consideration. Back to top.

2000s

June 30, 2000: Russia ratifies the CTBT.

January 5, 2001: U.S. General John Shalikashvili’s report “Findings and Recommendations Concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” is released after a 10 month-long review of the CTBT following the 1999 Senate rejection of the treaty. Shalikashvili’s report voices strong support for the treaty and outlines measures to build bipartisan support.

2001: The George W. Bush administration announces it will not seek reconsideration of the CTBT by the Senate, but will not resume U.S. nuclear testing.

July 31, 2002: The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) releases a report on “Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” assessing the key technical issues that arose during the Senate debate over treaty ratification. The report concludes that the United States does not need nuclear testing to maintain the safety and reliability of its arsenal, that the ability of countries to cheat is limited, and that there is confidence in the ability of the verification regime to detect nuclear tests.

October 9, 2006: North Korea conducts its first nuclear test explosion. Despite being only partially completed and operating in test mode, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)’s International Monitoring System (IMS) was able to detect the nuclear test and showcase the efficiency of the treaty’s verification regime.

September 2008: The 2008 Integrated Field Exercise is conducted in Kazakhstan. This large-scale simulation organized by the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the CTBTO is designed to test crucial elements of the treaty’s on-site inspection provisions.On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama spelled out steps leading to a world free of nuclear weapons, including pursuing U.S. ratification of the CTBT. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

April 5, 2009: In Prague, U.S. President Barack Obama states his commitment to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” including a pledge to “immediately and aggressive pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” 

May 25, 2009: North Korea conducts its second nuclear test, one month after declaring that it would no longer participate in multilateral talks on its denuclearization and would carry out nuclear and missile tests to strengthen its deterrent capability. With only three-quarters of the IMS in place, the CTBTO’s seismic stations are able to immediately confirm the nuclear test, and the noble gas system of the IMS later corroborates the seismic findings. The United Nations Security Council unanimously expands sanctions and counterproliferation measures against North Korea in response. Back to top.

2010s

May 28, 2010: The 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference concludes and agreement is reached on a Final Document, including conclusions and recommendations regarding nuclear testing and the CTBT.

February 6, 2012: Indonesia becomes the 36th Annex 2 state to ratify the CTBT, after signing on September 24, 1996, leaving eight remaining Annex 2 states needed to ratify the CTBT to bring the treaty into force: China, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

March 30, 2012: In a follow up to their 2002 report on the CTBT, NAS releases a report noting that there have been significant advancements to the technical issues related to the CTBT, particularly since the 2002 report. The 2012 report reaffirms that the United States no longer needs—and would not benefit from—nuclear explosive testing and also cites substantial advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the IMS capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear tests.

February 12, 2013: North Korea conducts its third nuclear test. The test is announced by the state-run Korean Central News Agency and confirmed by the CTBTO’s IMS verification regime on the same day.

August 2013: CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo visits China to discuss progress on CTBTO international monitoring stations in China. Following Zerbo’s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and training for Chinese station personnel in September, China agrees to begin sending data from its IMS stations to the International Data Centre in Vienna.

September 26, 2013: The CTBTO creates the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) at the United Nations in New York to bring together a group comprising of eminent personalities and internationally recognized experts to promote the CTBT’s ratification by the remaining Annex 2 states.

March 19, 2014: The Times of Israel reports that Israel has strongly indicated support for the CTBT, noting that Israeli sources claim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” Israel is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT.” CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo also notes that "Israel could be the next" Annex 2 state to ratify the CTBT.

November 3, 2014: The CTBTO Preparatory Commission launches their second on-site inspection exercise, called the Integrated Field Exercise 2014 in Jordan. The exercise involves two fictitious countries, lasts for five weeks, and uses 150 tons of equipment to comb a large swath of land next to the Dead Sea to test the procedures and operations required for a real on-site inspection of a country accused of testing a nuclear weapon.

September 29, 2015: CTBT states parties meet for the 9thArticle XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force in New York.

January 6, 2016: North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency announces that the country's military and scientific teams have conducted a fourth nuclear weapon test explosion, claiming it the test “scientifically verified the power” of a smaller hydrogen bomb that signifies a “higher stage” of development of North Korea’s nuclear force.  Initial seismic readings confirm a smaller-yield nuclear test detonation but technical experts are doubtful that North Korea conducted a test of a two-stage hydrogen bomb. The detonation, at North Korea's underground nuclear test near the village of P’unggye, is immediately detected by the CTBTO's International Monitoring System and many other national and civilian monitoring stations.

The nuclear test is widely condemned by North Korea's neighbors and the international community. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Commission for the CTBTO said in Jan. 6 statement that the fourth DPRK test should "serve as the final wake-up call to the international community to outlaw all nuclear testing by bringing the CTBT into force."

June 13-14, 2016: Foreign ministers and representatives from more than 69 states and international organizations gathered in Vienna on June 13-14 for a special meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to explore options for advancing its entry into force. Following a visit from the head of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to Jerusalem on June 20, the Israeli government pledged to ratify the treaty “at the right time.”

September 9, 2016: Seismic activity indicates that North Korea conducted a fifth nuclear test at 9:00 a.m. local time. The CTBTO reported that more than two dozen of the seismic stations that are part of the International Monitoring System confirmed that the seismic event was in the 5.1 magnitude range, occurred at a very shallow depth, and took place in the immediate vicinity of North Korea's Pyunggye-ri test site.

September 23, 2016: The UN Security Council adopted its first resolution specifically supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), with the vote intended to reaffirm the global norm against nuclear testing and to encourage the ratifications necessary to trigger the treaty’s entry into force. Resolution 2310, introduced by the United States, was approved 14-0, with Egypt abstaining. A total of 42 countries, including Israel, co-sponsored the resolution, which comes 20 years after the treaty was opened for signature. The resolution took note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members recognizing that “a nuclear-weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” By endorsing this language, the resolution affirmed the view of these five states that even before the treaty enters into force, all 183 CTBT signatories have an existing obligation not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

September 3, 2017: Seismic activity indicates that North Korea conducted their sixth and largest nuclear test to date at 3:30 UTC and 12:00 noon local time. The CTBTO reported that over 100 International Monitoring System stations are contributing to the analysis. Its initial estimate is that the seismic event's magnitude was around 5.8, occurred at a very shallow depth, and took place in the immediate vicinity of North Korea's Pyunggye-ri test site. A secondary, "subsequent aftershock at same location was recorded at 2 units of magnitude smaller 8.5 mins after" the 5.8 magnitude event. Comparison of seismic signals (to scale) of all six declared DPRK nuclear tests, as observed at IMS station AS-59 Aktyubinsk, Kazakhstan.On September 7, the CTBTO announced that it revised its initial magnitude estimate to 6.1. Experts assess the explosion could have had a yield in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent.

February 2, 2018: The 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) asserts that “the United States does not support the ratification of the CTBT" without providing any further explanation as to why. The United States will "continue to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Preparatory Committee” and “the related International Monitoring System and the International Data Center” the report adds. The NPR calls upon other states not to conduct nuclear testing and states that “[t]he United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal.”

April 20, 2018: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declares that he will suspend nuclear and missile tests starting on April 21 and that he will shut down the Punggye-ri test site where the previous six nuclear tests were conducted. At the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference preparatory committee meeting from April 25 - May 7, several countries call on North Korea to sign and ratify the CTBT to codify this pledge into international law.

May 24, 2018: North Korea reports that it destroyed its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri, setting off explosions to destroy the north, west and south portals to tunnels that could have been used to test nuclear weapons. It is not clear if North Korea completely destroyed the long-abandonded east portal. No nuclear experts were granted access to verify the destruction of the test site. North Korea did transport several international journalists to observe the explosions from a distance.

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Nuclear Testing

Posted: August 21, 2018

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement announcing the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has led to calls for Pyongyang to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, noted in a statement that Kim’s announcement was a positive “long-sought-after” step toward several disarmament commitments and the ratification of the CTBT. Lassina Zerbo, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) executive secretary, called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the CTBT, noting that a legally binding treaty is the only way to “solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing.” The CTBTO “stands ready to assist,” he said in an statement April 21, and some experts have proposed having the body engage in confidence-building site visits to Punggye-ri. —SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: May 1, 2018

G-7 Ministers Snub Ban Treaty

G-7 Ministers Snub Ban Treaty


Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations said that they regard the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as “the essential cornerstone” of the nonproliferation regime aG-7 “family photo” taken at a reception at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto April 22. They are (from left): Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano, and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. (Photo: LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)nd “a foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.” Without saying so explicitly, the language reflects their continuing rejection of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, even as some countries say nuclear-armed countries have not done enough under the treaty’s disarmament obligations. “While recognizing the constraints of the current international security environment, we remain strongly committed to the goal of ultimately achieving a world without nuclear weapons, to be pursued using practical and concrete steps in accordance with the NPT's emphasis on easing tension and strengthening trust among states,” according to the group statement following their April 23 meeting in Toronto.

The G-7 ministers did express support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States signed in 1996 but has not ratified due to Republican opposition, and for “our commitments to promote the International Monitoring System” established through the CTBT to detect underground nuclear tests.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: May 1, 2018

Revitalizing Diplomatic Efforts to Advance CTBT Entry Into Force

Description: 

More than two decades after the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the treaty has near universal support and has established a global norm against nuclear test explosions. The nuclear testing taboo impedes the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs, which helps prevent dangerous nuclear competition, and maintain international security.

Body: 


April 25, 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball
Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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More than two decades after the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the treaty has near universal support and has established a global norm against nuclear test explosions. The nuclear testing taboo impedes the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs, which helps prevent dangerous nuclear competition, and maintain international security.

Although the CTBT has created a norm against testing and a robust technical organization responsible for the operation and maintenance of a highly sensitive global nuclear test monitoring system, the treaty has not entered into force due to the failure of eight key states, including the United States and China, to ratify.

The CTBT is and will continue to be an essential pillar in the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise. Moving closer to the goal of the CTBT’s formal entry into force is the task of every CTBT state party, every nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) state-party, every state that supports the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and any other state that considers itself a “responsible” nuclear actor.

But in order to realize the full potential of the treaty and to close the door on testing, friends of the CTBT will need to rejuvenate and update their efforts to achieve its entry into force and reinforce the taboo against nuclear testing.

For the first five decades of the nuclear age, nuclear weapon test explosions were the most visible symbol of the dangers of nuclear weapons, nuclear arms racing, and the omnipresent danger of nuclear war—or as President John F. Kennedy described it, the nuclear “Sword of Damocles” that hangs over every man, women and child on the planet.

The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has brought the era of frequent nuclear testing to an end and has established a strong norm against any kind of nuclear test explosion. The treaty has near-universal support with 183 signatories, including the five original nuclear testing states.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), with headquarters in Vienna, is operating on a 24/7 basis to collect and analyze data in real time from a global network of nuclear test monitoring stations. The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which is nearly complete and is operating on a 24/7 basis, serves as a strong deterrent against any state that might consider conducting a clandestine nuclear test explosion.

However, the door to nuclear testing remains open as the treaty has not entered into force due to the treaty’s onerous Article XIV provisions, which require that 44 specific states sign and ratify. Currently there are eight “hold out” states—China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—which have failed to ratify.1

The non-testing norm cannot be taken for granted and, over time, it must be actively renewed and reinforced. In order to realize the full potential of the treaty, to close the door on further nuclear testing, and to reinforce the nonproliferation regime, states must need to rejuvenate their efforts to achieve the entry into force of the CTBT.

Unfortunately, the United States, which was leading proponent for the CTBT during the 1990s is now lagging behind. Without explanation or a high-level review or consultation with allies, the Donald Trump administration announced in February 2018 that it will not seek Senate approval for U.S. ratification of the CTBT.

In response, other hold-out states, particularly China, need to lead the way by signing and/or ratifying the treaty, and all signatory states should reaffirm their support for a permanent, verifiable end to nuclear test explosions by achieving entry into force of the CTBT, including by means of a joint heads of state declaration in the run-up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

Supporters of the global norm against nuclear testing and CTBT entry into force should also explore how North Korea’s pledge to close its only known nuclear test site at Punggye-ri beginning April 21 and suspend nuclear testing for the foreseeable future can be solidified into a legally-binding, more verifiable commitment by securing Pyongyang’s signature and ratification of the CTBT through the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with South Korea and the United States on the denuclearization and the establishment of a lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

Regional adherence to the CTBT in the Middle East—and the creation of a regional nuclear weapons test free zone—should also be pursued as a new approach toward building the foundation for a WMD-free zone in the region, which is a long-standing but unfulfilled goal of every state party to the NPT.

The Role of the Comprehensive Test Ban in Nonproliferation and Disarmament

Since 1945, nuclear testing has been used to develop new, more advanced nuclear-warhead designs and to demonstrate nuclear-weapon capabilities. Nuclear testing has propelled the global nuclear-arms competition and undermined global peace and security. In aggregate, at least eight states (United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea) have conducted more than 2,0562 nuclear test explosions, with U.S. tests accounting for nearly half that total.

For nearly as long, a global, verifiable ban on nuclear test explosions has been a goal for international nuclear risk reduction, nonproliferation, and disarmament. Without the ability to conduct nuclear explosive tests, a country cannot confidently develop more advanced types of nuclear warheads.

Kazakh citizens gather to demand an end to nuclear testing at the Soviet nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk in August 1989.   (UN Photo/MB)

 

A global nuclear test ban was first formally proposed in 1954 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as a step toward ending the nuclear arms race and preventing proliferation—and to prevent the significant health and environmental damage produced by atmospheric nuclear-test explosions.

In the negotiations for the 1968 Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the CTBT was widely recognized as a critical part of the nuclear-weapon states’ obligation to meet their NPT Article VI commitment to “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”3 The preamble of the NPT specifically cites the goal of “the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end.”4

Not until the end of the Cold War would the conditions to secure the CTBT finally became more favorable. An important catalyst was the pressure of a popular protest movement in Kazakhstan, which successfully pressed the Soviet government in Moscow to close the Semipalatinsk test site and announce a unilateral nuclear test moratorium in October 1991. Late the following year, the U.S. Congress approved legislation mandating a nine-month U.S. moratorium with conditions on the resumption of nuclear testing. The next year, President Bill Clinton decided to extend the U.S. test moratorium and pursue negotiations on a CTBT at the Conference on Disarmament.

The push for the comprehensive test ban became a key variable in the negotiations between the “nuclear-haves” and the “nuclear-have-not states” at the pivotal 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. Support from the NPT’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states for the CTBT gave non-nuclear-weapon states leverage at the NPT conference and contributed to the decision to extend the treaty and adopt a strong “program of action” for disarmament, including the conclusion of CTBT negotiations by the end of 1996.5

Following two years of intense multilateral negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly overcame an attempt by India to block the treaty when it adopted a resolution endorsing the CTBT on September 10, 1996, by a vote of 158-3. Two weeks later, on September 24, the treaty was opened for signature. U.S. president Bill Clinton became the first signatory.

As the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, wrote in an April 2017 essay, Article I of the CTBT prohibits “’any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion’ anywhere on Earth, whatever the yield.”6 This provision of the treaty is recognized by all of the major negotiating parties to mean that supercritical hydronuclear tests (which produce a self-sustaining fission chain reaction) are banned, but subcritical hydrodynamic experiments (which do not produce a self-sustaining fission chain reaction) are permitted.7

In 1997, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization was formally established to work with state parties to build and operate a robust International Monitoring System (IMS) and International Data Center (IDC). Today, the IMS is nearly 90 percent complete, the IDC is fully functional, and the CTBTO is a mature, highly professional, and fully operational organization that is collecting and analyzing information on a continuous round-the-clock basis for the purpose of detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear-test explosions and to provide the technical basis for international responses to noncompliance.

Once the treaty formally enters into force, the verification system will also include the option for short-notice on-site inspections to investigate suspicious events. Information from states’ national intelligence networks, which are more sensitive in some geographic regions, can be taken into account.

In anticipation of the fact that the treaty’s onerous Article XIV entry into force provisions would delay entry into force, Canadian negotiators insisted on a provision in Article XIV that allows for conferences of states-parties to meet every two years to develop strategies and seek ways to accelerate the process toward securing the necessary 44 ratifications. Beginning with the first such conference in 1999, there have been ten such meetings, which have, unfortunately become pro forma affairs that primarily allow states which have signed and/or ratified to reiterate their support, exhort hold-out states to take action, and to develop a modest joint diplomatic outreach plan.

The Nuclear Testing Taboo

Since the CTBT opened for signature it has established a powerful standard of “responsible” behavior. Nations that conduct nuclear tests are outside the international mainstream and will bear the consequences of global isolation. Only one country—North Korea—has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century.

Even India, which strongly opposed the CTBT during and after the conclusion of the negotiations in 1996, has declared a moratorium on nuclear testing following its May 1998 series of nuclear tests.8 Pakistan, which responded with its own nuclear tests weeks later, has also since observed a testing moratorium and declared it would not be the first state in the region to resume nuclear testing.9

International support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. UNSC Resolution 1887 (2009) calls upon all states “to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date.”10

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the CTBT in Sept. 2016, the UNSC adopted the first-ever, CTBT-specific resolution (UNSCR 2310), which reaffirms the global norm against nuclear-weapon-test explosions, calls on the eight remaining states that must ratify for entry force to do so, and urges all states to provide their full financial and technical support to the CTBTO. The resolution was formally co-sponsored by forty-two states, including Israel.11

The new UNSC test-ban resolution also formally recognizes the important September 15, 2016, statement12 from the permanent five members of the council expressing the view that any nuclear test explosion would “defeat the object or purpose of the treaty.” The statement gives public expression to the existing legal obligation of all CTBT signatories not to test a nuclear weapon, even before the treaty enters into force.13

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) negotiated, which was opened for signature in 2017, further reinforces the CTBT and the non-testing norm. Under the TPNW, states parties may not “test” nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive devices.

Nonproliferation and Disarmament Benefits

A global ban on nuclear explosions has been a central element of the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise because an effective, comprehensive, verifiable test ban directly constrains the ability of all parties to develop more-advanced nuclear weapons.

As noted in the preamble of the 1996 treaty: “the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects.”14

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats vote to adopt the resolution in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty during a UN Security Council meeting September 23, 2016. (Photo: Astrid Riecken/CTBTO)

 

Technically, a state might have some degree of confidence that a simple, relatively cumbersome fission device would work without testing, as the United States did with the Hiroshima bomb in 1945. Today, a country with no or little nuclear-weapons design and nuclear test explosion experience might be able to acquire an ambiguous nuclear deterrent without nuclear-explosive testing, but under the CTBT it could not use a nuclear test to demonstrate that capability, as India did with its first nuclear-test explosion in 1974.

However, the test ban constrains nuclear weapons development by states with little or no nuclear testing experience by blocking the progression from simple fission designs to “boosted” fission designs to two-stage thermonuclear designs with better yield-to-weight ratios.

How far along the developmental ladder a proliferator could go without nuclear explosive testing is not exactly clear, but states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons compact and light enough to deliver on long-range ballistic missiles would certainly not have confidence in their performance without multiple, multi-kiloton nuclear-test explosions, which would very likely be detected by the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System and national technical means of intelligence.

Despite substantial science and technological advances over the past two decades that can aid in maintaining and extending the service life of existing nuclear warheads, the CTBT also creates a technical barrier for states with a substantial history of nuclear testing who may in the future see new nuclear warhead designs, such as China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

According to the exhaustive 2012 study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on CTBT technical issues, these states “… are unlikely to be able to deploy new types of strategic nuclear weapons that fall outside the design range of their nuclear-explosion test experience without several multi-kiloton tests. Such multi-kiloton tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced … national technical means and a completed IMS network.”15

Tailored Strategies to Bring the Eight Hold-Out States Into the Treaty

Movement toward ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, and each of the remaining eight states have good reason to do so. But in order to make progress, advocates of the CTBT in government and in civil society will need to update and tailor their outreach and diplomacy if there is to be a shift in outdated attitudes of the governments of these eight “hard cases.” CTBT states parties will also need to rejuvenate the bi-annual gatherings of foreign ministerial meetings on the CTBT and signatory states at “Article XIV Conferences on Facilitating Entry Into Force” so they are more impactful.

North Korea: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s nuclear program represents the most direct and immediate threat to the global nuclear-test ban enterprise. Pyongyang’s policies with respect to further nuclear testing and the CTBT are inextricably tied to the resolution of long-running security and political disputes with the United States and South Korea, and to resumptions of sustained negotiations on denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

Diagnostic cables snake their way across the Nevada Test Site towards the Icecap tower, which housed the diagnostic cannister. One of three U.S. nuclear tests planned for 1993. The test was to have been in the 20-to-150-kiloton range and would have been conducted 1,557 feet underground.  (Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration)As President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in engage in talks with their DPRK counterpart, it is vital that they seek to solidify Pyongyang’s pledge to halt ballistic missile and nuclear testing and close their nuclear test site, and also to bring an end to further North Korean fissile material production.

For now, North Korea possesses enough plutonium for fewer than a dozen bombs, but if left unchecked, it will amass a larger and more potent arsenal. Additional successful nuclear weapon test explosions will improve confidence in the DPRK’s warhead designs and facilitate the mass production of a compact warhead design that can be delivered on its short- or medium-range ballistic missiles. Further tests long-range ballistic missiles, coupled with additional nuclear testing, would likely expand Pyongyang’s nuclear retaliatory potential.

Although the DPRK’s leaders may no longer be willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapon’s program altogether, the regime in Pyongyang still appears to be willing to freeze and possibly abandon portions of his nuclear program in exchange for improved relations with the United States, a reduction of tension on the Korean peninsula, and the possibility of much-needed foreign economic trade and food and energy aid.

On April 21, the DPRK’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea had developed smaller and lighter nuclear, high-yield nuclear weapons and their means of deliver and could therefore “… discontinue nuclear test and inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire from April 21, 2018. The northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK will be dismantled to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test.”

He also said that “…the discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process for the worldwide disarmament, and the DPRK will join the international desire and efforts for the total halt to the nuclear test.”

Now, as the United States and South Korea and other states in the region pursue diplomacy and pressure to achieve denuclearization, they should seek solidify Kim Jong-un’s no testing pledge by securing North Korean signature and ratification of the CTBT, along with confidence building visits by CTBTO technical teams.

Some have suggested the Punggye-ri test site may not be available for additional nuclear tests because of cavity and tunnel collapses caused by previous nuclear blasts. But, in reality the site could still be used for further tests. Clearly, the DPRK’s pledge to close down its main nuclear weapons test site and join the international effort to halt all nuclear testing is a very significant pledge toward denuclearization that clearly puts the DPRK’s accession to the CTBT within reach.

The DPRK’s April 20 announcement to halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests was welcomed by key leaders, including the European Union’s High Representative Federica Mogherini who, in an April 21 statement, called it a “positive, long sought-after step on the path that has now to lead to the country’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, the full respect for its international obligations and all relevant UNSC resolutions, and the ratification of the CTBT.”

In a statement to the 2018 preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 NPT Review Conference, the CTBTO’s Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo also welcomed the DPRK announcement and added that the “CTBT can provide the security and certainty needed by solidifying the commitment to turn away from nuclear testing.”

Kim Jong-un’s remarks on nuclear testing are consistent with the logic expressed years earlier in a statement about nuclear testing and the CTBT that was delivered by a senior DPRK official at a conference in Moscow in 2012:

“Once the CTBT becomes effective … then there is no doubt that it would make a great contribution to the world peace and stability. [However,] unless the U.S. hostile policy and its nuclear threats are completely withdrawn and a solid and permanent peace regime is in place on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK is left with no other choices but to steadily strengthen its self-defensive nuclear deterrent to the standard it deems necessary.”16

As the United States and the international community explores options to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, another option, pending the entry into force of the CTBT, would be for North Korea to begin technical cooperation with the CTBTO so that, in the event there is seismic event in North Korean territory, CTBT teams could use their remote monitoring tools, and potentially on-site confidence building visits, to ensure that Pyongyang continues to respect its nuclear test moratorium commitment.

India and Pakistan: Since their destabilizing tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998, India and Pakistan have stubbornly refused to reconsider the CTBT even though neither country has an interest in or technical justification for renewing nuclear testing.

India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments through the CTBT. Pakistan has said it supports the principles and goals of the CTBT and would welcome a legally binding test ban with India, but leaders in Islamabad have failed to take the first step by signing the CTBT.17

In particular, India’s ongoing campaign for recognition as one of the world’s “responsible nuclear-armed states,” its effort to win support for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and obtain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council would get a strong boost if leaders in New Delhi would commit to sign and ratify the CTBT.

The NSG’s 2008 decision to exempt India from the full-scope safeguards standard for civil nuclear trade was taken with the understanding that India would continue to observe a complete nuclear-test moratorium.18 The renewal of nuclear testing by India would re-open that decision and jeopardize its hard-won access to the international civil nuclear technology and uranium market—an “intolerable” price to pay, according to former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, who noted in 2009: “We will suffer international isolation. It will be a huge setback to our bid for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.”19

This makes it all the more logical for New Delhi’s leaders to join the nuclear-test ban mainstream and reinforce global efforts to detect and deter testing by ratifying the CTBT.

For their part, UN member states that are serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear-risk reduction should insist that India and Pakistan sign and ratify the CTBT before they are considered for NSG membership and insist that India should sign and ratify the treaty before its possible permanent membership on the Security Council is considered.

The Middle East: Ratification of the CTBT by Israel, Egypt, Iran—all of which must ratify to trigger CTBT entry into force—and Saudi Arabia would reduce nuclear weapon-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary to achieve their common, stated goal of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.20

“As a stepping-stone towards this long-term objective, a ‘nuclear-test-free zone’ could be created in the Middle East, by way of CTBT ratifications by the remaining states of the region,” High Representative Federica Mogherini suggested in June 2016 at special ministerial meeting in Vienna to mark the twentieth anniversary of the treaty.21

Israel was among the first nations to sign the CTBT in 1996 and has been actively involved in the development of the treaty’s monitoring system and on-site inspection mechanisms. Israel’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and CTBTO Merav Zafary-Odiz said in 2016 that: “a regional moratorium [on nuclear testing] could enhance security, and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT. Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium, it would be useful for others to do the same.”

Unfortunately, Israel has hesitated to take the next steps toward its own ratification of the CTBT—a move that would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit.

Iran has signed the CTBT but has not yet ratified. In September 1999, at the first Conference on Facilitating the Entry-Into-Force of the CTBT, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, spoke in support of the CTBT and later endorsed a UN conference statement calling for cooperation aimed at bringing the treaty into effect.

Iran is understandably focused on the implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and eventual approval of the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement—and the future of the JCPOA itself has been put into doubt as a result of the Donald Trump administration’s critical approach to the agreement.

Regardless of the status of the JCPOA, if over time Iran fails to ratify the CTBT and fully cooperate with the operation of IMS monitoring stations in the years ahead, it will add to concerns about the purpose of its sensitive nuclear-fuel activities.

If the JCPOA survives the Trump era, Iran could help assuage concerns about the purposes of its nuclear program as key JCPOA limits on its uranium enrichment program expire over the course of the next ten-to-fifteen years by making clear its support for and intention to ratify the CTBT in a timely manner.

China’s Potential Leadership Role: China decided two decades ago to join the CTBT regime and become one of the treaty’s early signatories. China’s leaders and officials have consistently expressed their support for the CTBT, but it is clear that China has made a quiet decision to stop short of ratification until the United States completes its ratification process.

To most observers outside of China, there does not appear to be any serious political impediments to Chinese ratification at this time, aside from the inaction of the United States on the CTBT. Beijing’s failure to ratify has likely also given cover for India not to consider ratification more seriously and has undermined the credibility of Beijing’s overtures to Pyongyang to refrain from further nuclear test explosions.

Comparison of seismic signals (to scale) of all six declared DPRK nuclear tests, as observed at IMS station AS-59 Aktyubinsk, Kazakhstan. (Credit: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization)

 

Recently, however, Beijing has been more energetic in its support for the CTBT. With encouragement from CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo, China has in the past year certified its first five International Monitoring System (IMS) stations, of the twelve it is treaty-bound to certify in order to realize the completion of the global nuclear test detection system.

The first Chinese IMS station, radionuclide station RN21, was certified in December 2016. The most recent four stations include two primary seismic stations, and two other radionuclide stations, all certified between the months of September to December of 2017. These most recent certifications will “fill in an important geographical coverage gap in terms of event detection in the region,” according to a CTBTO press statement.

During a certification ceremony in January 2018 in China, Zerbo commended China for setting a “positive example” for other Member States in regard to its technical engagement, and Vice Director of Equipment Development at the Chinese Department of the Central Military Commission Lt. General Zhang Yulin noted that the certification of the five stations in one year was “of landmark significance.”

In a statement released following a meeting with Zerbo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the CTBT is “an important pillar of international nuclear disarmament,” and has an “irreplaceable” role. He also noted that China is “willing to deepen” it’s cooperation with the CTBTO and further “promote the construction and certification of follow-up stations,” which will provide further concentrated monitoring of potential nuclear test activity in the region, particularly North Korean activity.22

The United States: The policy of the United States—which has conducted more nuclear weapon test explosions than all other states combined and has the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal—toward the CTBT is perhaps the most important of all the remaining Annex 2 states. Much has changed since the Senate last examined the CTBT in 1999 and rejected the treaty by a 51-48 margin after a brief and highly partisan debate that centered on questions about the then-unproven program to maintain the existing nuclear warheads in the U.S. stockpile without nuclear explosive tests (a.k.a. the Stockpile Stewardship Program) and the then-unfinished global test-ban monitoring system.23

The substantive case for U.S. ratification of the CTBT is stronger than ever. Today, the global monitoring system can detect any militarily significant nuclear test explosion and U.S. stockpile stewardship programs to maintain its nuclear arsenal without nuclear test explosions has proven to be more effective than originally anticipated.24 The United States no longer has a technical or military need for nuclear explosive testing and it is clearly in U.S. national security interests to prevent other states from testing, which would create new nuclear tensions and enable advances in other states’ nuclear weapons arsenals.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate is deeply divided and dysfunctional and has not systematically debated the issues related to the CTBT for nearly two decades. Few senators are familiar with the technical issues surrounding the CTBT or its potential benefits.

Worse still, the Trump administration’s 2017 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) asserts that “the United States does not support the ratification of the CTBT,” even though there is no technical need to resume nuclear testing.25

The review, which generally defines U.S. policy regarding the role of nuclear weapons in security strategy, says “the United States will continue to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Preparatory Committee” and “the related International Monitoring System and the International Data Center.”

The NPR calls upon other states not to conduct nuclear testing and states that “[t]he United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal ….”26

The Trump administration’s test ban policy implies that it wants to reap the benefits of the CTBT, including obtaining data from the monitoring system, without fulfilling earlier pledges to reconsider ratification of the treaty. Unfortunately, this policy is not likely going to change during the Trump administration and will not change without stronger international pressure from U.S. allies and civil society. With a renewed push for U.S. leadership on CTBT ratification and movement on the treaty by other hold-out states, it is possible that a new administration and a new Senate will take another look at the CTBT, which is clearly in the U.S. and international security interests.

When the United States does eventually ratify the treaty, it can put additional pressure on other holdout states to follow suit. Until then, it is vital that other states continue to reinforce the global taboo against nuclear testing to reduce the risk of renewed nuclear testing and a dangerous cycle of global nuclear-arms competition.

Bottom Line

Moving closer to the goal of the CTBT’s formal entry into force is the task of every NPT state party, every CTBT state-party, every state that supports the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and any other state that considers itself a “responsible” nuclear actor, because the CTBT is and will continue to be an essential pillar of the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament architecture.

Doing so will, however, take political energy, more diplomatic creativity, and a more serious and sustained commitment from national and international leaders in government and in civil society, beginning now.

ENDNOTES

1. The eight key states that must still ratify before the CTBT enters into force are: China, the DPRK, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. This onerous requirement is spelled out in Article XIV of the treaty, which references forty-four states listed in Annex II.

2. United States Nuclear Tests 1945 Through September 1992, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/NV-209, Rev. 14, December 1994; V. N. Mikhailov, editor, Catalog of Worldwide Nuclear Testing, Begell-Atom, LLC 1999; “The Nuclear Testing Tally,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet, September 2016 https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nucleartesttally

3. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, March 5, 1970, Article VI, www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html

4. Ibid., preambular paragraph 11.

5. For a detailed history, see: Jayantha Dhanapala, Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT: An Insider’s Account (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2005).

6. “The Nuclear Test Ban: Time to Finish What We Started,” by Sergei Ryabkov and Lassina Zerbo, The Diplomat, April 21, 2017. See: https://thediplomat.com/2017/04/the-nuclear-test-ban-time-to-finish-what-we-started/

7. “Scope of the CTBT, Fact Sheet, US Department of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, n.d. http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/212166.htm

8. In a statement to the UN General Assembly in September 1998, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told the 53rd UN General Assembly that India would not be among the last states standing in the way of the treaty’s entry into force. Vajpayee said that India’s series of five underground tests, conducted on May 11 and 13, 1998, “do not signal a dilution of India’s commitment to the pursuit of global nuclear disarmament. Accordingly, after concluding this limited testing program, India announced a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear test explosions.” He went on to say that: “We conveyed our willingness to move towards a de jure formalization of this obligation. In announcing a moratorium, India has already accepted the basic obligation of the CTBT… . We expect that other countries, as indicated in Article XIV of the CTBT, will adhere to this Treaty without conditions.” See: https://www.pminewyork.org/adminpart/uploadpdf/92927lms48.pdf

9. Ayesha Riyaz, Statement of Pakistan before the Ministerial Meeting on the CTBT, June 13, 2016, Vienna. See: https://www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/user_upload/statements/2016_Ministerial_Meeting/Pakistan.pdf

10. “Historic Summit of Security Council Pledges Support for Progress on Stalled Efforts to End Nuclear Weapons Proliferation,” Security Council 6191st Meeting, United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases, September 24, 2009. See: http://www.un.org/press/en/2009/sc9746.doc.htm

11. United Nations S /PV.7776 Security Council Seventy-first year 7776th meeting, 23 September 2016, page 2. See: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.7776

12. Joint Statement on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Nuclear-Weapon States, Media Note, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, D.C., September 15, 2016. See: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/09/261993.htm

13. Under Article XVIII of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which is widely recognized as customary international law, states are obliged not to take actions that would “defeat the object and purpose” of treaties they have signed. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, May 23, 1969, Article 18, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%201155/volume-1155-I-18232-English.pdf

14. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, September 24, 1996, preambular paragraph 5, www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/content/treaty/treaty_text.pdf

15. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), “The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States,” 2012, p. 117.

16. Jang Song Chol, Statement to “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): Prospects for Making Its Global Benefits Permanent,” presented at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, September 6, 2012. See: http://ceness-russia.org/data/page/p915_1.pdf

17. On August 16, 2016, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on the proposal, noting: “The bilateral non-testing arrangement, if mutually agreed, could become binding immediately without waiting for the entry into force of the CTBT at the international level.”

18. In a September 5, 2008 statement by Pranab Mukherjee, India’s external affairs minister issued on the eve of the key NSG meeting, India’s reiterated its commitment to adhere to a unilateral nuclear testing moratorium among other nuclear restraint pledges. The text of the approved waiver states that it is “based on the commitments and actions” described by Mukherjee. Several states asserted this reference indicated that the group will end nuclear trade with India if it does not honor the Mukherjee statement, particularly if it conducts a nuclear test. In a Sept. 6 statement, New Zealand declared, “It is our expectation that in the event of a nuclear test by India, this exemption will become null and void.” Other states, including Japan and Ireland, offered similar statements. See: “NSG, Congress Approve Nuclear Trade with India,” by Wade Boese, Arms Control Today, vol. 38, no. 8, October 2008.

19. Rama Lakshmi, “Key Indian Figures Call for New Nuclear Tests Despite Deal With U.S.,” Washington Post, October 5, 2009, <www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/04/AR2009100402865.html>.

20. See: “WMD-Free Middle East Proposal at a Glance,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet, June 2015 https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/mewmdfz For more detail on Israel’s position, see: Dr. Paul Chorev, Director General of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Statement at the 53rd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, September 2009 https://www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC53/Statements/israel.pdf

21. Speech by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini at the Ministerial-level meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Vienna, June 13, 2016. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/5005/speech-by-high-representative-of-the-european-union-for-foreign-and-security-policy-and-vice-president-of-the-european-commission-federica-mogherini-at-the-ministerial-level-meeting-of-the-preparatory-commission-for-the-comprehensive-nuclear-test-ban-trea_fr

22. Shervin Taheran, “China Adds Monitoring Stations,” Arms Control Today, Vol 48, No. 2, March 2018. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2018-03/news-briefs/china-adds-monitoring-stations

23. Daryl G. Kimball, “What Went Wrong: Repairing the Damage to the CTBT,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 29, No. 10, December 1999. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_12/dkde99

24. “U.S. Has No Need to Test Atomic Arsenal, Report Says,” by Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, March 31, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/science/earth/us-tests-of-atomic-weapons-not-needed-report-says.html

25. Nuclear Posture Review, U.S. Department of Defense, February 2018, page 63. https://www.defense.gov/News/SpecialReports/2018NuclearPostureReview.aspx

26. Ibid.

 

Posted: April 25, 2018

Trump Administration Silent on CTBT

The United States withholds comment while the new administration reviews nuclear weapons policies.


October 2017
By Shervin Taheran

At the UN Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) held Sept. 20, the sole U.S. representative sat silently as senior officials from other nations expressed support for the landmark 1996 accord.

The Trump administration, working without an undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, did not match the high level of representation exhibited by other governments and international organizations. Speakers included foreign ministers and other senior officials, such as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

The U.S. silence is particularly notable because the Trump administration is conducting a Nuclear Posture Review, which may include the question of whether the country can adequately maintain its nuclear arsenal without test explosions. The last U.S. nuclear explosive test was Sept. 23, 1992, and many experts have concluded that testing is not necessary to maintain a reliable nuclear stockpile.

The Trump administration has yet to comment publicly about the CTBT, which the United States signed in 1996 but has not ratified. It has commended the CTBTO International Monitoring System and capabilities for detecting nuclear test explosions, notably in the April 7 joint communiqué on nonproliferation and disarmament by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven.

Although the Trump administration has requested full funding for the CTBTO, in line with previous years, some Republicans in Congress are aiming to “restrict” that funding. (See ACT, March 2017.)

The United States is one of eight countries, known as the “hold-out states,” that must ratify the treaty
before it can enter into force. The others are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. Of the eight, India, North Korea, and Pakistan have not taken the first step of signing the treaty.

Many nations at the session, informally known as the Article XIV conference, after the article in the treaty that advocates its convening, commended last year’s first UN Security Council resolution to specifically support the CTBT. A total of 42 countries, including Israel, co-sponsored Resolution 2310, which came 20 years after the treaty was opened for signature. (See ACT, October 2016.)

Yet, a reference to the resolution was absent in the final declaration of the conference, causing Mogherini to note, “We welcome the positive developments since the 2015 Article XIV conference . . . the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2310, which reaffirms the vital importance and urgency of achieving prompt entry into force of the treaty and its universalization. The European Union would have preferred to see a direct reference to this resolution in the final declaration.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature the same morning as the Article XIV conference (See "Fifty States Sign Nuclear Weapons Ban," this issue), where the new accord was frequently mentioned in remarks by officials from countries supporting the new treaty.

Noting concerns among some of the member-states and signatories that the prohibition treaty is in conflict with the CTBT, Alexander Marschik, political director of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, said that the prohibition treaty text “recognizes the vital importance of the CTBT and its verification regime as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation architecture.”

“Its formulations regarding testing were very carefully drafted to ensure they are fully compatible with the CTBT,” he added. “Moreover, there is reason for hope that the success of the new prohibition treaty negotiations will create a positive impulse for our common objective here: the entry into force of the CTBT and the cessation of nuclear testing.”

China and Egypt were the only two “hold-out” states to speak at the conference, and neither offered a clear path on if or when they would ratify the CTBT. China’s statement only alluded to, but did not name, North Korea, the only country now conducting nuclear explosive testing.

Russia also took the opportunity to call out only the United States among the eight “hold-out” states, saying the “U.S. position,” as well as the doubtful effectiveness of the Article XIV process, could “undermine the hope” that the CTBT would eventually enter into force. “We have the impression that some states are satisfied with the current circumstances.”

The Article XIV conference was led by newly elected co-presidents Belgium and Iraq, which took over from Kazakhstan and Japan. Belgium and Iraq will continue in that role for two years until the next Article XIV conference, unless the treaty comes into force thereby eliminating the need for the conference.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: October 1, 2017

Civil Society Leaders: Renew Action to Bring CTBT Into Force

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Civil Society Leaders Call for Renewed Action to
Bring Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Into Force at UN Conference
 

Note Absence of U.S. Voice on Test Ban in Wake of North Korean Nuclear Test

For Immediate Release: Sept. 20, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association (202-277-3478, [email protected]) and Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women’s Action for New Directions, 202-577-9875 ([email protected])

(New York)—At the tenth Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—also known informally as the Article XIV conference—held at the United Nations in New York, a diverse group of nongovernmental nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament leaders, as well as former government officials and diplomats are calling for renewed action to finally bring the 1996 CTBT into force.

The statement from more than 40 civil society leaders, delivered by Kathy Crandall Robinson from Women’s Action for New Directions, notes that “[i]nternational support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions, including 2016’s Resolution 2310 and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but our work is not yet done.” 

“In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty,” the civil society statement urges, "[s]upporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT 'hold-out' states and the international community." 

The full text of the statement is below or click here for the PDF.

Unfortunately, the United States, one of the key states that must ratify before it can enter into force, attended but failed to speak at the conference.

“In the wake of North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, it is essential that Washington join with its allies and the international community in reiterating the United States’ support for a permanent, verifiable end to all nuclear weapons testing,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which organized the civil society statement.

The United States, which was the first country to sign the treaty 21 years ago, is one of the eight “hold-out” states that must still ratify the treaty to trigger its formal entry into force. The other hold-outs include: China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, India, and Pakistan. The CTBT has been signed by 183 states and ratified by 166.

The civil society leaders also called upon the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council members to more fully utilize the CTBTO by calling upon the Executive Secretary to report to these bodies and "supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT.”

_______________________

Past Time to Finish What We Started 

Civil Society Statement to the 10th Article XIV Conference on
Facilitating Entry Into Force of the CTBT 

Sept. 20, 2017

A global, verifiable, legally binding comprehensive ban on all types of nuclear test explosions has been a goal for international nuclear-risk reduction, nonproliferation, and disarmament since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the result of years of campaigning by civil society organizations and ordinary people around the globe concerned about the adverse health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. The CTBT is the result of the courageous leadership displayed by key political and diplomatic leaders.

Two decades after the opening for signature of the CTBT, the treaty has near universal support and has established a global norm against nuclear test explosions. Nations that conduct nuclear tests are now considered outside the international mainstream and bear the consequences of global isolation. Only one country—North Korea—has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century. 

By prohibiting all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT creates an important barrier against the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs, which, in turn, helps prevent dangerous nuclear competition and advance the twin goals of nonproliferation and disarmament.

The CTBT Organization (CTBTO), established by the international community to provide international oversight for verification of the CTBT, has developed increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to effectively verify compliance with a “zero-yield” nuclear test ban. 

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which is more than 90% complete and is operating on a continuous 24/7 basis, already serves to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, and provides additional data for other applications. The CTBTO, with technical support and financial contributions of key member states, has also refined the advanced tools and techniques necessary for on-site inspections, which can, once the treaty enters into force, be used to investigate suspect events.[1]

International support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. 

  • UNSC Resolution 2310, adopted in September 2016, reaffirmed the widespread global support for the CTBT, reinforced the norm against testing, expressed strong support for the work of the CTBTO, and recognized that the 183 state signatories of the CTBT are obliged not to take any action contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty, including by conducting nuclear test explosions.
  • The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) negotiated earlier this year, though not endorsed by all of the CTBT’s signatories, further reinforces the CTBT and the non-testing norm. Under the TPNW, states-parties may not “test” nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. 

But our work is not yet done. In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty.

Supporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT “hold-out” states and the international community.

It is essential that the incoming co-chairs of the Article XIV process Belgium and Iraq—in coordination with the previous co-chairs Japan and Kazakhstan, other key CTBT states-parties, and civil society—develop a pragmatic, effective, and dynamic action plan to advance prospects for ratification and entry into force. That plan must also be designed to ensure that the financial and technical support for the CTBTO remains steady and strong so as to maintain the capacity to verify compliance with the treaty pending its entry into force. 

Concrete action on ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, advance the goals and objectives outlined by Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and advance the interests of the eight states listed in Annex 2 that must still ratify to trigger the treaty’s entry into force.

India and Pakistan: Since their destabilizing tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998, India and Pakistan have refused to reconsider the CTBT even though neither country has an interest in, or technical justification for, renewing nuclear testing. India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments through the CTBT. Pakistan has said it supports the principles and goals of the CTBT and would welcome a legally binding test ban with India, but leaders in Islamabad have failed to take the first step by signing the CTBT.

India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its effort to win support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council would get a strong boost if leaders in New Delhi would signal their commitment to sign and ratify the CTBT. Pakistan could make a more convincing case that it is a “responsible” nuclear-armed state if it were to sign and ratify the CTBT. UN member states—particularly those in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in the NSG—that claim to be serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear nonproliferation should insist that India and Pakistan sign the CTBT before they are considered for NSG membership.

The Middle East: Ratification of the CTBT by Israel, Egypt, and Iran—all of which must ratify to trigger CTBT entry into force—and Saudi Arabia would reduce nuclear weapon-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary to achieve their common, stated goal of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. “As a stepping-stone towards this long-term objective, a ‘nuclear-test-free zone’ could be created in the Middle East, by way of CTBT ratifications by the remaining states of the region,” EU foreign policy High Representative Federica Mogherini suggested in June 2016 at the special ministerial meeting in Vienna to mark the twentieth anniversary of the treaty.

Israel was among the first nations to sign the treaty in 1996 and has been actively involved in the development of the treaty’s monitoring system and on-site inspection mechanisms. In 2016, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and CTBTO Merav Zafary-Odiz said: “a regional moratorium [on nuclear testing] could enhance security, and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT. Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium, it would be useful for others to do the same.”  Unfortunately, Israel has hesitated to take the next steps toward its own ratification of the CTBT—a move that would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit.

In September 1999, at the first Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the CTBT, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, spoke in support of the CTBT and later endorsed a UN conference statement calling for cooperation aimed at bringing the treaty into effect. Iran is understandably focused on the implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and eventual approval of the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement. But if Iran fails to ratify the CTBT and fully cooperate with the operation of its IMS monitoring stations in the years ahead, it will add to concerns about its commitment under the JCPOA not to undertake prohibited weaponization-related activities. Iran could help assuage such concerns by making clear its support for, and intention to ratify, the CTBT in a timely manner.

China and the United States: China decided two decades ago to join the CTBT regime and became one of the treaty’s early signatories. China’s leaders and officials have consistently expressed their support for the CTBT, but it is clear that China has made a quiet decision to stop short of ratification until the United States completes its ratification process. To most observers outside of China, there do not appear to be any serious political impediments to Chinese ratification at this time, aside from U.S. non-ratification. Beijing’s failure to ratify has likely given cover for India not to consider ratification more seriously and has undermined the credibility of Beijing’s overtures to Pyongyang to refrain from further nuclear test explosions.

Chinese leadership is important and overdue, but stronger U.S. leadership is also essential. Much has changed since the Senate last examined the CTBT in 1999 and rejected the treaty by a 51-48 vote after a brief and highly partisan debate that centered on questions about the then-unproven stockpile stewardship program and then-unfinished global test-ban monitoring system.

The United States no longer has a technical or military need for a nuclear explosive testing option and it is clearly in U.S. national security interests to prevent other states from testing, which would create new nuclear tensions and enable advances in other states’ nuclear weapons arsenals.

President Trump’s administration has expressed support for the global nuclear test moratorium and the CTBTO’s international monitoring system. At the same time, his administration is being pressured by some in Congress to repudiate the U.S. commitment not to conduct nuclear explosive tests and to develop new types of low-yield nuclear weapons with “tailored” effects that could require nuclear explosive testing to confirm their performance. 

Now is the time for U.S. partners to remind the White House that the pursuit of new types of “more usable” nuclear weapons is destabilizing and that the current global testing taboo cannot be taken for granted. All states at this conference must make it a priority to remind the current U.S. administration, at the highest levels, that Washington has a responsibility and opportunity to reconsider and pursue ratification of the CTBT.

North Korea: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the only nation continuing to flout the global norm against nuclear testing. Their sixth nuclear weapon test was measured by the CTBTO as a magnitude 6.1 seismic event, which means the nuclear bomb produced an explosion in excess of 120 kilotons TNT equivalent, and perhaps much higher. This test, and any future nuclear tests, will undoubtedly help North Korea optimize its nuclear warhead designs for ballistic missile delivery. Although North Korea’s leaders may no longer be willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapons program altogether, they still appear to be willing to halt further nuclear testing in exchange for a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula. In a rare statement on the CTBT delivered in Moscow in 2012, a senior DPRK official said: “Once the CTBT becomes effective … then there is no doubt that it would make a great contribution to the world peace and stability. [However,] unless the U.S. hostile policy and its nuclear threats are completely withdrawn and a solid and permanent peace regime is in place on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK is left with no other choices but to steadily strengthen its self-defensive nuclear deterrent to the standard it deems necessary.”[2]

It is in the security interests of Washington, Beijing, and their allies and neighbors in Asia to seek to leverage the international sanctions against Pyongyang and immediately engage in negotiations to halt to further long-range ballistic missile testing and secure a permanent ban on further nuclear testing though its signature and ratification of the CTBT, which are key steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Moving closer to the goal of the CTBT’s formal entry into force is the task of every CTBT state-party because the CTBT is and will continue to be an essential pillar in the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise. 

Doing so will, however, take political energy, and a more serious and sustained commitment

North Korea’s most recent nuclear test explosion is yet another reminder of why CTBT entry into force and the ongoing work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is so vital to every state’s security interests: nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states; supporters as well as skeptics of the TPNW; and states inside and outside the NPT regime.

Finally, the devastating health and environmental effects of decades of nuclear testing around the world, which have adversely affected the lives of millions of people—particularly women and children and those in indigenous and underrepresented societies where a majority of the 2,056 nuclear test explosions have been conducted—serve as one reminder of what is at stake.

Our generation of governmental and nongovernmental leaders has a responsibility to those who have suffered the effects of nuclear testing and to future generations to do our part to finally bring the CTBT into force.

 

Endorsed by: 

Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner, Japan Atomic Energy Commission,* and former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs 

Ms. Ray Acheson, Programme Director of Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Christine Ahn, Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ

Alimzhan Akhmetov, Director, Center for International Security and Policy, Kazakhstan

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard University*

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Jeff Carter, J.D., Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility 

Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation 

Dr. Kate Dewes, Disarmament and Security Center

Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne* 

James Goodby, Deputy to General John Shalikashvili, Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the CTBT, 2000-2001

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute

Commander Robert Green RN (Ret.), Disarmament and Security Centre

Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arms Control, 1967-1969

Ira Helfand, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Laura S. H. Holgate, former U.S. Ambassador to the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Edward Ifft, Adjunct Professor, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University*

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, British American Security Information Council (BASIC) 

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshares 

Bonnie Jenkins, Joint Fellow, Brookings Institution* and University of Pennsylvania Perry World House,* and former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the U.S. Department of State

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The Honorable Mike Kopetski, former Member of the U.S. Congress and co-sponsor of the 1992 legislation that effected a U.S. nuclear test moratorium 

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, The Stimson Center

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Jenifer Mackby, former Secretary of the Negotiations on the CTBT and former Secretary of the CTBTO Verification Working Group

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Götz Neuneck, Deputy Director Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg

Dr. Andreas Nidecker, President, Basel Peace Office

Marzhan Nurzhan (Kazakhstan), Coordinator for CIS countries, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Interim Convener of Abolition 2000 Youth and nuclear disarmament working group

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Jaap Ramaker, Chairperson of the 1996 CTBT Negotiations in Geneva, and former Special Representative of CTBT Ratifying States to Promote the Treaty

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification & Security Policy Coordination, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2002-2011

Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women's Action for New Directions & Women Legislators' Lobby 

Susi Snyder, Programme Manager, PAX, The Netherlands 

John F. Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World; Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Dianne Valentin, Chair of Board of Directors, Women's Action for New Directions

Frank von Hippel, Assistant Director for National Security, white House Office of Science and Global Security, 1993-1994 

Paul F. Walker, International Program Director, Green Cross International

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation 

David Wright, PhD, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

*Listed for identification purposes only


[1] As outlined in UNSC 2310 and mandated in the charter for the establishment the CTBTO Provisional Technical Secretariat (UN document A/54/884, dated 26 May 2000), the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council may call upon the Executive Secretary to supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. 

[2] Jang Song Chol, Statement to “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): Prospects for Making Its Global Benefits Permanent,” presented at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, September 6, 2012. See: http://ceness-russia.org/data/page/p915_1.pdf

Posted: September 20, 2017

Nuclear Restraint Agreements Under Serious Threat

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Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen these four key pillars of arms control and nonproliferation.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, September 5, 2017

Since the dawn of the nuclear age over 70 years ago, rarely has the world faced as difficult an array of nuclear weapons-related security challenges as it is facing now. Unfortunately, Congress will soon enact legislation that could further imperil the global nuclear order.
 
The Senate is scheduled to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Authorization Act as early as this week. The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Both bills contain several problematic provisions that if enacted into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to several longstanding, bipartisan arms control and nonproliferation efforts and increase the risks of renewed nuclear arms competition with Russia.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have worsened over the past few years, thanks to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and support for the Assad regime in Syria. Nevertheless, the two countries continue to share common interests. In particular, as the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, they have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives all the more urgent.
 
While some meaningful cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.
 
Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen the existing architecture of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, key pillars of which have their origin in the vision of President Ronald Reagan. These agreements constrain Russia’s nuclear forces, provide for stability, predictability, and transparency in the bilateral relationship, and have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.
 
Below is a summary of the current status and arguments in support of four key agreements put at risk by the Senate and/or House NDAAs. 
 


The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
 
Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires that the United States and Russia each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. The agreement, which is slated to expire in 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.
 
Current Status: So far both sides are implementing the agreement and there are no indications that they do not plan to continue to do so. Russia has indicated that it is interested in beginning talks with the United States on extending the treaty, but the Trump administration has yet to respond to these overtures. In January phone call with President Putin, President Trump reportedly dismissed the idea of an extension and called the treaty a “bad deal.” The House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit the use of funds to extend the New START treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART

Key Points:

  • New START caps the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and provides the United States with additional tools to monitor Russia’s forces. The treaty includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with treaty limits and enable the United States to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, which aids U.S. military planning.
  • The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. The treaty provides for bilateral stability, predictability, and transparency, thereby bounding the current tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
  • The U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START. For example, in March 2017, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), “I am big supporter of the New START Agreement.” Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”
  • Connecting New START extension with INF treaty compliance is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
 
Background: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia and the United States destroyed a total of 2,692 short/medium/intermediate-range missiles by the 1991 deadline.
 
Current Status: The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement, and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the FY 2018 NDAA would authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty
 
Key Points:

  • The United States and Russia need to work to preserve the INF Treaty. This should include using the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, to address mutual concerns. The Trump administration should make it clear to Moscow that so long as Russia remains in violation of the treaty, the United States will pursue steps to reaffirm and buttress its commitment to the defense of those allies threatened by the treaty-noncompliant missiles.
  • Development of a new GLCM sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement and would take the focus off Russia's violation. Russia could respond by publicly repudiating the treaty and deploying large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.
  • Development of a new GLCM is militarily unnecessary and Pentagon has not asked for one. The United States can legally deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets. There is no reason to believe that development of a new GLCM will convince Russia to return to compliance. A new GLCM would also take years to develop and suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements. The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the INF provision on requiring a new GLCM.
  • NATO does not support a new GLCM and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive. It is thus a weapon to nowhere. A divided NATO would also be a gift to Russia.
  • Mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the INF treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The 1990 Treaty on Open Skies
 
Background: The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency on the military activities of states, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all Treaty parties.
 
Current Status: The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would annually bar, for each of the next five years, any U.S. Open Skies Treaty skies flights until Pentagon and intelligence community submit a plan for all of the treaty flights in the coming year. The bill would also bar DOD from acquiring a more effective, more timely, more reliable digital imaging system for conducting flights over Russian territory.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/openskies

Key Points:

  • The Open Skies Treaty provides a significant contribution to the security and stability of North America and Europe. According to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita E. Friedt, almost a dozen U.S. and NATO member flights over Ukraine and Western Russia in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis “resulted in valuable data and insights.” The treaty mandates information-sharing about military forces that increases transparency among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.
  • U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection. The United States and its allies typically carry out many more overflights than Russia. These flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.
  • Russia would gain a unilateral advantage as a result of restricting funding for upgrading aircraft used by the United States for treaty observation flights. This would stymie U.S. efforts to match Russian sensor upgrades, thereby limiting the value of the Open Skies treaty to U.S. national security.
  • The Russian sensors and cameras in question do not pose a threat to U.S. security. According to Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, all states party to the Open Skies treaty are permitted to certify new sensors and aircraft. Furthermore, he said, “the resolution of Open Skies imagery is similar to that available in commercial satellite imagery.” He added that Russian information compiled as a result of Open Skies flights is “of only incremental value” among Russia’s many means of intelligence gathering. 

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
 
Background: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is the the intergovernmental organization that promotes the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has yet to enter force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System (IMS) to deter and detect nuclear test explosions.
 
Current Status: The United States currently contributes nearly a quarter of the annual CTBTO budget. In April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined with other Foreign Ministers at the G-7 foreign minister summit in a statement expressing support for the CTBTO. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request would fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO at roughly the same level as the Obama administration. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would prohibit funding for the CTBTO and calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance

Key Points:

  • The CTBTO and IMS support and provide detection capabilities that supplement U.S. national intelligence capabilities to detect nuclear testing. Reducing U.S. funding for the CTBTO would  adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS.
  • The CTBTO is a neutral source of information that can help to mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing. U.S. action to restrict funding could prompt other states to reduce their own funding for the CTBTO or lead states to withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing. Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies,
  • Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so. It also takes note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 
  • Asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing. With North Korea having conducted a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the CTBTO and the global nuclear testing taboo. 

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Country Resources:

Posted: September 5, 2017

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