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Shultz Urges U.S. Ratification of Test Ban Treaty

By Chris Schneidmiller

Global Security Newswire

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, shown in 2012, on Friday renewed his call for the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (AP Photo/Deutsche Presse Agentur). Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, shown in 2012, on Friday renewed his call for the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (AP Photo/Deutsche Presse Agentur).

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz on Friday called for U.S. senators to support an international treaty to permanently ban nuclear testing.

The Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999 even while the United States has maintained an informal moratorium on atomic trials that has now lasted for more than two decades. President Obama has made CTBT ratification part of his broader nuclear disarmament agenda, but has yet to formally seek a vote by the upper chamber.

The United States is among eight nations that must still deliver legislative approval before the accord can enter into force.

“You can say a senator might have been right to vote against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now. Why? Because things have changed,” Shultz said during an event in Washington.

“It’s now not just an idea that we can detect tests,” he added, echoing previous comments in support of the accord. “There is a network that has been built up now and it has been demonstrated that we can detect all, even small tests.”

The organization preparing for the treaty’s entry into force has to date certified nearly 300 facilities that would use seismic sensors and other technologies to identify a secret nuclear blast. The CTBT International Monitoring System picked up signs of all three North Korean underground atomic blasts dating to 2006, most recently on Feb. 12. The United States' monitoring capabilities are believed to be even more sophisticated.

Advocates say the treaty would be key to preventing states from developing viable new or improved nuclear weapons.

Critics have countered that Pyongyang or other aspiring nuclear-armed nations could still use a number of technical means to hide the physical indicators of an atomic detonation. They also argue that the United States might need to maintain the testing option to establish an updated deterrent in the face of yet-unforeseen threats.

“I find it hard to see how we can justify going and producing a new nuclear weapon,” Shultz said. “We have quite an arsenal right now.”

The United States is believed to have about 1,700 long-range nuclear warheads in active service, along with roughly 200 battlefield bombs deployed in Europe. It is required under the New START treaty with Russia to by 2018 cap its strategic arsenal at 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems.

Shultz held several Cabinet positions from the 1960s to 1980s, finishing as secretary of State from 1982 to 1989.

In the last few years, he has joined former Senator Sam Nunn, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to issue a series of high-profile declarations supporting the test ban and other measures toward global nuclear disarmament.

The group’s latest commentary, published on March 5 in the Wall Street Journal, does not address the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The article was intended to ignite a renewed sense of urgency on nuclear nonproliferation, Shultz said.

“The issue has kind of lost its attention. We need to get back on the offense,” he said.

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