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U.N. Chief Urges U.S. to Take Lead on Nuclear Test Ban

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, shown on Thursday, on Friday said the United States should press ahead in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rather than await action by other holdout countries (U.N. photo). U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, shown on Thursday, on Friday said the United States should press ahead in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rather than await action by other holdout countries (U.N. photo).

WASHINGTON -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday explicitly called for the United States to take the lead in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The international accord that would ban member states from conducting nuclear test blasts has received legislative approval from 158 nations. However, it cannot enter into force without ratification by eight additional countries: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

"If the U.S. moves [on ratification], I'm sure that the remaining seven countries will follow," Ban said in a speech at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. "You should not wait until China or some other countries do so first."

The U.S. Senate previously rejected ratification in 1999.

While President Obama has been a strong advocate of U.S. ratification of the accord, his administration did not pursue passage in its first term in the face of probable Republican opposition. Instead, officials launched an informational campaign aimed at educating lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers and the public on developments over the last 14 years in capabilities to maintain a viable U.S. nuclear arsenal without testing and to catch any other nation that might try to breach the treaty's rules.

The State Department's lead official for arms control matters, acting Undersecretary Rose Gottemoeller, in late September called on other holdout nations to ratify the accord without waiting for matching action by Washington.

With Obama about to start his second and final term as president, Ban said "I hope the United States will lead by example."

Ban said he would travel to Washington in April, with the leadership of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, to meet with President Obama and congressional leaders "to convince them of the importance of early ratification."

The former South Korean foreign minister also called for the Security Council to study various avenues for penalizing nations that violate or fail to implement the body's resolutions.

The 15-member council has passed a number of sanctions resolutions against North Korea and Iran, which are known to be or suspected of pursuing nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. However, full implementation of international economic penalties has been difficult as not all U.N. member states enforce those measures.

"Unless equipped with robust verification and enforcement measures the credibility of the Security Council will be called into question," Ban said.

"I urge the Security Council to take up this matter at a high level meeting" such as a 2013 summit of states leaders, the secretary general said. "By considering -- and acting -- on major existential threats, the Security Council can spur much-needed global debate."

Ban also urged nuclear-armed states to cut back their arsenals, reassess the role that such armaments play in their national defense postures and for forward movement at the long-stalled Conference on Disarmament.

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