Happy International Day Against Nuclear Tests! For a brilliant reminder of why a permanent legal ban on nuclear testing is vital, check out Daryl Kimball’s moving take over at Armscontrolnow.
Looking for another nuclear testing-related item to put on your calendar?
The “2011 Article XIV Conference” on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will be held September 23 in New York.
Hosted by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, this will be seventh conference on the ratification and implementation of the CTBT (for background information our site is chock full of CTBT resources, including a fact sheet here).
The CTBT calls for an indefinite ban on all nuclear test explosions in all environments, to inhibit the research and development of new nuclear weapons. Since opening for signature in 1996, 182 states have signed the treaty and 154 have ratified it. However, before the treaty can “enter into force” (i.e. be made into international law) the 44 countries that possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at the time the treaty was negotiated have to sign and ratify the pact. Nine of these countries still need to deposit their articles of ratification: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, the United States of America, India and Pakistan.
Representatives from all countries are invited to participate in the conference – whether they have signed or ratified the treaty or not. Those states that have already ratified the treaty use the conference to promote the treaty’s goals and urge states that have not done so to sign and ratify the treaty so as soon as possible. They will also propose concrete measures to hasten entry into force, such as by urging countries with nuclear weapons research programs to refrain from developing new nuclear devices.
At the last conference in 2009, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon underlined that the CTBT is essential to ridding the world of nuclear weapons and urged states to ratify immediately, rather than wait to follow another country’s lead.
In 2009, the U.S demonstrated renewed commitment to the treaty and the Article XIV meeting. For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended and spoke at the conference, the first high-level U.S. official to do so in almost ten years.
The U.S. also secured the Security Council’s unanimous consent for a U.S.-proposed resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament that dedicates the Security Council to actively promote “a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons….”
The U.S. Senate voted against ratification of the CTBT twelve years ago in 1999, but the case for the treaty has only grown stronger. In 1999, the Senate primarily opposed to the treaty because they believed a ban on nuclear testing was unverifiable and worried that the U.S. nuclear arsenal would grow outdated without testing. Today, verification methods have greatly improved and the U.S. – which has observed a self-imposed ban on U.S. nuclear testing for the last ten years – has demonstrated that it can maintain its nuclear arsenal even without tests. The Obama administration has urged the Senate to reconsider the treaty as soon as is feasible.
While the onus of signing and ratifying the treaty falls squarely on the individual countries, U.S. ratification is likely a necessary (albeit not sufficient) step to spur the other eight remaining holdouts to ratify the treaty. China, for instance, has hinted that it would ratify if the U.S. did so.
U.S. ratification could also help stem Iran and North Korea’s nuclear aspirations because it would give the U.S. added credibility to sustain and expand international cooperation against states that do not comply with their nuclear proliferation obligations.
U.S. ratification of the CTBT is a painless and effective means to increase national security. As Ellen Tauscher, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, put it earlier this year, “In short, ratification helps us get more of what we want.”