U.N. Chief Criticizes Test Ban Treaty Holdouts

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday issued a pointed message to the eight nations holding up entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see GSN, Feb. 6).

“There is no good reason to avoid signing or ratifying this treaty. Any country opposed to signing or ratifying it is simply failing to meet its responsibilities as a member of the international community," Ban said in Vienna, Austria. "It is irresponsible to see this treaty still waiting to come into effect 15 years after it was opened for signature."

Ban and senior diplomats from several nations were in Vienna to mark the 15th anniversary of the formation of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the international entity preparing for the accord's entry into force.

The treaty has been signed by 182 nations and ratified by 157 of those states. However, it cannot take on the power of law until ratified by 44 "Annex 2" nations that possessed nuclear power or research programs while participating in negotiations on the accord in the 1990s. There are eight holdouts from that group -- China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

Supporters say the pact would curb nuclear proliferation by barring the explosive tests needed to develop new or better weapons. Critics in the United States say there are a number of reasons to remain outside the pact, including the potential for nations to conduct tests without being caught and the possibility Washington might someday need to end its voluntary moratorium on testing to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is equal to the threats facing the country (see GSN, July 18, 2011).

Officials at the Vienna event highlighted the web of detection technology installed around the world to detect nuclear blasts.

"The network has grown, station by station. 285 facilities, more than 80 percent of the International Monitoring System, are up and running," said CTBTO chief  Tibor Tóth. "That is a $1 billion investment. Today, I can assure you that no nuclear test will ever escape detection.”

Ban said he is "ready to visit those capitals suspicious about the reliability of the treaty’s monitoring and inspection systems" (Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization release, Feb. 16).

February 17, 2012
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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday issued a pointed message to the nations holding up entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.