One Year of Test Ban Commitment Cannot Erase a Decade of Dismissal: Discussing the Outcome of the CTBT 2009 Article XIV Conf.

One Year of Test Ban Commitment Cannot Erase a Decade of Dismissal: Discussing the Outcome of the CTBT 2009 Article XIV Conf.

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Luis Gain

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Liviu Horovitz

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies


Less than a year after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential race, the Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize for his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." [1] While the Obama administration's commitment towards the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is unquestionable, the recent CTBT conference in New York has proven that the other states whose ratifications are pending will need more than skillful oratory and preparatory steps to follow suit with any commitments of their own. Only when Washington succeeds to follow through, starting with the ratification process and ultimately approving the treaty, will the remaining eight non-ratifying countries be obliged to reevaluate their options.

One of "the longest-sought, hardest fought" [2] for treaties, the CTBT, a ban on all nuclear test explosions in all environments, opened for signature in September 1996. While the Clinton administration promised, promoted, and signed the test ban, the CTBT failed to gain a simple majority of votes during the U.S. Senate's initial consideration of the treaty in October 1999. [3] When Washington failed to ratify, numerous governments understandably felt either let "off the hook" or disappointed and disgruntled with America's failure to deliver on its commitments. [4] In 2007, Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stagne Ugarte, co-chair of the Article XIV Conference that serves as a platform for signatory states to discuss ways forward for the treaty's entry into force (EIF), best summarized the consensus among all parties involved: "the key to accelerate the process of ratification remains in the leadership role the United States would be ready to assume." [5]

As of October 2009, while 150 states have ratified this treaty and 182 have signed it, nine holdouts impede its entry into force. The United States, China, Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are the remaining "nuclear capable" states that need to ratify for the test ban to enter into force. [6] Throughout the CTBT "dark age" decade of the Bush administration, the treaty nearly disappeared from public memory and the remaining dissenters had little incentive for action of their own, as they were able to hide in Washington's shadow. Nonetheless, despite U.S. opposition, no fewer than 100 states ratified the treaty during this time. More remarkable, nearly the entire International Monitoring System (IMS) was developed and monitoring stations were installed even on American soil.

During the past year, however, the Obama administration has invested considerable political capital into the treaty ratification process, thereby proving an unquestionable commitment to the CTBT. While the administration's efforts have been primarily aimed at the domestic audience in order to facilitate the Senate ratification process, this exceptional attention has nourished an increased worldwide focus on the CTBT, reinvigorating efforts for achieving the treaty's entry into force.

Obama's unprecedented steps, nonetheless, have not yet compensated for the damage done during the Bush administration. This distrust was evident at the sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the so-called Article XIV Conference. The conference convened from 24 to 25 September 2009 at the United Nations in New York. During the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged "other countries to play their part [:] those who haven't signed should sign [,] those, like us, who haven't ratified, should ratify." [7]

From the "Remaining Eight," some the best example being the DPRK show little interest in changing their positions. Nonetheless, the others, perhaps scarred by the contentious conclusion of CTBT negotiations in 1996 or burned by the 1999 U.S. ratification debacle, puzzled by the policy reversal in Washington or awaiting better lime-light opportunities to exhibit their commitment to the treaty, met Clinton's remarks with reservation and caution. It appears that all of these states will continue to wait for the United States to make the first step.

The national debate over the test ban has reignited in India stirring controversy over whether New Delhi should decide to test again. Other such public deliberations might follow in some of the remaining outlier states. These debates are certainly bringing the treaty to the forefront of the nonproliferation agenda. Nonetheless, the results of these debates will most likely be modest in the short run, as decision makers have not felt the need to move forward before Washington gets its own house in order. While U.S. ratification will not necessarily unleash a quick avalanche of other ratifications, it will force the remaining outliers to abandon their hideouts and clarify their positions. However, this process can only start if the Obama administration manages to move from words to action and overcome the opposition mounting in the U.S. Senate. How soon this might happen depends on the political investment the administration will be able and willing to make.

The U.S. Transformation

During his 2000 campaign, George W. Bush made clear his position on the test ban: "The CTBT does not stop proliferation, especially to renegade regimes. It is not verifiable. It is not enforceable. And it would stop us from ensuring the safety and reliability of our nation's deterrent, should the need arise." [8] Immediately after taking office, the Bush administration stated it would not support the treaty and "would not ask the Senate to reconsider the CTBT." [9] The administration boycotted all biennial Article XIV Conferences and was the only nation to vote against the yearly United Nations General Assembly CTBT resolution calling for the treaty's entry into force in 2008.

The Bush administration even attempted to remove the treaty from the Senate, hoping to bury the test ban once and for all. [10] In addition, the Bush administration continually cut funding for the CTBTO's International Monitoring System and suspended its contributions for the development of the On-Site Inspections (OSI). This left the United States further in arrears of its assessed contributions and made it difficult for the CTBTO's Provisional Technical Secretariat to fulfill its mandate of establishing the treaty's verification regime. In all, the policies of the Bush administration during the "dark age" of the CTBT prompted many states to question whether the treaty would ever enter into force.

Immediately after his election, President Obama promised to "reach out to the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date" and "launch a diplomatic effort to bring onboard other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force." [11] In his April 2009 Prague speech, the president pledged that his administration "will immediately and aggressively" pursue U.S. ratification of the treaty and stressed, "after more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned." [12]

The composition of the team handpicked by Obama to help push ratification of the treaty and numerous statements by government officials and congressional Democrats reinforce the administration's commitment. [13] The CTBT point-man within the White House is Vice President Joe Biden. During his long career in the U.S. Senate as both ranking minority leader and later as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden led the Clinton Administration's 1999 unsuccessful efforts to obtain Senate approval for CTBT ratification. His knowledge of and experience within the Senate will be crucial in obtaining the treaty's ratification. The State Department is also relying on newly appointed Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller to gain support for the treaty's entry into force. Both have reiterated Obama's support for the treaty and various other arms control measures while attending international and domestic events, reinforcing the U.S. commitment to the CTBT and nuclear disarmament.

In recent months, the U.S. administration has pursued a number of steps to convince domestic audiences of its commitment to the treaty, as well as reassure the international community of its sincere change in position. Just one day before the Article XIV Conference, U.S. President Obama addressed the United Nation General Assembly and called on all nations to take their "share of responsibility" in working towards reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Obama then once again underlined that the United States would move "forward with ratification of the Test Ban Treaty, and work with others to bring the treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited." [14] The President also informed the assembly that Secretary Clinton "will become the first senior American representative to [attend] the annual Members Conference of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."

Chairing the historic Security Council summit on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, President Obama led the Council in unanimously adopting Resolution 1887, which outlined measures to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Seen by optimists as a bridge in closing the gap between disarmament and non-proliferation, 1887 specifically refers to states' responsibilities under the NPT: "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament…," [15] a responsibility many non-nuclear weapon states complain has not been adequately pursued. The resolution also addresses another key disarmament issue, seen by many as a litmus test in fulfilling obligations under the NPT, by calling on "all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date." [16] After the adoption of the resolution, the president reiterated the U.S. commitment to the CTBT stating that, "We will move forward with the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." [17] The passing of this resolution will serve to build momentum for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and, as many hope, foster support for CTBT ratification.

Currently, the Senate is under solid Democratic control, but at least seven Republicans still must be convinced of the treaty's merits. Although there has been little public support for the CTBT from Republicans in the past, Senate sources claim the current whip count to be at 63 votes in favor of the treaty, suggesting that at least three GOP senators have privately agreed to vote for it. [18] Much has changed since 1999, but the debate is still likely to revolve around the same concerns voiced by the treaty's opponents a decade ago: the test ban's verifiability, stockpile reliability in the absence of testing, and the treaty's contribution to U.S. nonproliferation objectives. [19]

Over the last 10 years, scientific advancements have resolved many of the questions raised during the debate in the Senate. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed a report declaring that underground nuclear weapon tests, which are of primary concern, could be detected at yields as low as 0.1kt by the CTBTO's International Monitoring System (IMS), well below the yield needed for any test of military significance. The IMS has proven its capability to detect very low yield tests, as evinced by its detection of the North Korean tests in 2006 and earlier this year. With almost 75% of its monitoring system in place and nearly 250 stations retrieving data daily, the IMS will be capable of detecting any significant nuclear test when completed. The ability of the IMS to detect nuclear tests will serve as an added deterrent to potential cheaters who may attempt to conduct evasive nuclear tests.

In addition, the NAS report affirmed that the United States "has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under the CTBT" through the success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). [20] Because of the SSP, Scientists and engineers are better able to understand and study nuclear weapons with the help of new super computers and analytic tools in the absence of nuclear testing. Concerns over the ability to maintain critical components of a nuclear warhead, most importantly those concerning the aging of plutonium pits, have also been addressed by scientists. In 2006, studies carried out at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories determined that these pits "have minimum lifetimes of at least 85 years," thus increasing the confidence in the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile for many more decades to come. [21] The directors of these laboratories expressed their confidence in the program earlier this year stating: "To date the SSP, Stockpile Stewardship Program has achieved remarkable successes. It has enabled the laboratory directors to assure the nation that we do not need to conduct a nuclear test to certify the deterrent is safe, secure, and reliable." [22]

Earlier this year, administration officials stated their intention to obtain ratification before the Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in May 2010. [23] Many believe that obtaining the Senate's approval by the time of the review conference or having at least started the Senate hearings in order to achieve ratification by the end of 2010 will provide the United States with much goodwill and in turn advance U.S. non-proliferation objectives. In preparation for this drive, the Obama administration has commissioned the NAS once again to "review and update" the 2002 NAS report in order to address questions and concerns that will be brought up during the upcoming Senate hearings on the CTBT. [24] Members of this committee include former Director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Bruce Tarter and former Undersecretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and NNSA administrator Linton F. Brooks. [25] The new report is expected to reaffirm the U.S. ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile in the absence of testing. With the report scheduled for release in the winter of 2009-2010, the Senate should have access to the findings before the actual debate begins.

In addition to the NAS report, a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is due in early 2010. The NPR will determine "U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, strategy, and force posture for the next 5 to 10 years." [26] As the Department of Defense reassesses the role of its nuclear forces, many hope the NPR will recommend a posture supportive of Obama's goal of reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal while maintaining a secure nuclear deterrent. President Obama plans to meet directly with senior level officials assessing the review to ensure that his views are incorporated into the NPR. With pressure mounting from Republicans and the Pentagon to have the NPR include funding for a controversial nuclear warhead modernization program, the president will probably need to interject directly if he wants to prevent his non-proliferation efforts from being thwarted. [27]

Over the last year, influential Republican leaders formerly opposing the treaty have begun taking positions in support of the CTBT ratification. Most recently, Linton Brooks, who testified against the CTBT during the 1999 Senate Hearings, has now openly recognized the change in his views. [28] Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Advisor under Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, who opposed the CTBT in 1999, has also changed his stance and now supports the treaty. [29] George Shultz, former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, recently commented that due to "new evidence" provided by advanced technology, Republicans should now support the CTBT. He declared that Republicans "might have been right voting against it some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts." [30] Senator John McCain, last year's Republican presidential hopeful, stated that he would consider supporting the treaty if "concerns are addressed before another vote." [31] Senator Richard Lugar, Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is an advocate of nuclear nonproliferation and could be convinced to reconsider his position. [32]

Due to full Democratic backing, increasing support for the CTBT from former and current Republican leaders, and forceful scientific proof, the U.S. Senate can probably be convinced of the treaty's merits. The administration must nonetheless be certain that it takes the time to hold a sufficient number of hearings in order to address concerns and bring Republicans on board for CTBT ratification. Bringing the vote to the Senate floor before securing consent could portend the irrecoverable loss of the treaty. Though not inconceivable, it is hard to believe that any future president will attempt to bring the CTBT back to the Senate after a second rejection.

Nevertheless, while the Senate's consent might be attainable, absent a very strong continuous political commitment, hurdles such as divergent strategic priorities, a crowded legislative agenda, and numerous domestic constraints might hamper the process. First, for a number of key Republicans, including the influential Richard Lugar, sealing the deal over the START follow-on treaty seems of utmost importance. Consequently, hearings on the CTBT could be delayed until after the START ratification, which is unlikely to happen before the spring of 2010. Second, a number of other international treaties are on the administration's agenda for next summer. Finally, with mid-term elections taking place in autumn 2010, senators will be increasingly preoccupied with domestic issues as they campaign for re-election. Thus, very little is expected to be accomplished in the Senate after August. Taking all of this into account, an early ratification seems less probable. A strong commitment by the administration will be needed to put the CTBT hearings process into motion. Because the conclusion of the START treaty does not carry as much weight as the CTBT in the NPT context, beginning the hearings on the CTBT before the NPT Review Conference, which will commence 26 April 2010, will send a strong signal of the U.S. commitment to the treaty.

The Remaining Eight

Besides Washington, eight other capitals have not yet acceded to the treaty. From these remaining eight outliers, five have signed the treaty and participated in the Article XIV Conferences. While welcoming the U.S. steps, neither Jakarta, Beijing, Jerusalem, or Cairo made any noteworthy progress in their positions regarding their own ratification of the CTBT. Involved in negotiations with the P5+1, Tehran was absent from the meeting. A vivid debate with an unknown outcome erupted in New Delhi under the pressure of the policy reversal in Washington and expectations of future demands from India, but the government is likely to be able to hold events under control and avoid any decision on the CTBT as long as Washington's ratification remains pending. Islamabad holds its cards close and predicting DPRK's actions remains elusive even under thawing U.S.-DPRK relations.


Indonesia signed the treaty, stated repeatedly that the test ban is essential for the maintenance of international security, [33] and voted in favor of all UNGA resolutions calling for the earliest CTBT EIF. In August 2005, Indonesia's Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement affirming that Indonesia is currently "in the process" of finalizing its ratification, but the final step was never reached. In June 2009, during a visit to the United States, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda declared that "we share [President Obama's] vision of a world in which nuclear weapons have been eradicated. We trust that he will succeed in getting the CTBT ratified, and we promise that when that happens, Indonesia will immediately follow suit." [34]

While U.S. Secretary of State Clinton did not miss the opportunity to applaud "Foreign Minister Wirajuda's recent pledge," [35] Although Indonesia's statement at the Article XIV Conference did not reiterate this commitment, it did emphasize that "Indonesia is cognizant of its responsibility" and note that the process of ratification was continuing with all national stakeholders. After reiterating that his country had "no difficulty with the provisions of the treaty" and acknowledging the treaty's "value in promoting nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation," Jakarta's ambassador linked the CTBT to other nuclear disarmament measures and emphasized the responsibility of nuclear weapon states in leading the way. [36] Recent elections granted the incumbent, president Bambang, a comfortable majority and the government was only slightly reshuffled. Nonetheless, looking forward to next year's NPT Review Conference, Jakarta apparently has decided, at least at the moment, to keep the final-CTBT-commitment trump card in hand.


In September 1996, China became the second country after the United States to sign the treaty, [37] and appeared to be seriously committed to its ratification. [38] Beijing then presented the treaty to its National People's Congress, but since the U.S. Senate's rejection in 1999, Chinese diplomats have continuously stated that the legislative body is performing "the ratification formalities in accordance with the relevant constitutional procedure." [39]

Even as it hesitated to take the final step, China's statements and actions over the last decade have consistently indicated support for an early ratification. China has participated actively in all the work of the CTBTO, established a specialized agency to prepare for the treaty's implementation, and has consistently declared its support for the treaty's early EIF (entry into force) at diplomatic venues. [40] China's January 2009 Defense White Paper reiterated its support for an early EIF and its pledge to honor its testing moratorium, [41] and at the 2009 NPT PrepCom, China stated that it "supports early entry into force of the CTBT and will continue to make efforts to this end." [42]

Numerous experts, including current and former diplomats, suggest that China's decision has already been made and Beijing is only waiting for Washington's ratification. [43] Nonetheless, the message of its foreign affairs minister to the Article XIV Conference drew more attention for what it did not contain than for its actual content. While noting that "under the new circumstances, facilitating the early entry into force of the treaty is of high practical significance" and pledging to "work with the international community" in this regard, China's diplomats neither mentioned the status of the ratification process in China's legislative body, nor stated or implied any linkage to other states' ratification. [44] Speaking at the Security Council meeting, China's President Hu Jintao only noted that, "the CTBT should be brought into force at an early date."


Since its signature in 1996, Israeli diplomats have not missed any opportunity to voice "firm" and "unequivocal" support for the treaty. Jerusalem contributes financially to the CTBTO, keenly participates in most of the CTBT activities especially those related to OSI and the development of the OSI Operational Manual. Moreover, Israel has completed the construction and certification of two auxiliary seismic stations at Merona and Eilat. [45] Over the last decade, Israel's three stated preconditions for ratification have barely changed: (a) the readiness of the verification regime and its immunity to abuse, (b) Israel's equal status within the decision-making bodies of the organization, and (c) the adherence and compliance with the CTBT by states in the Middle East. [46]

Israel's 2009 statement revealed no surprises. While acknowledging progress on the verification regime, Jerusalem's ambassador reiterated his country's three preconditions and added that the "need for universal commitment not to carry out any nuclear test explosions" was a "gap" that would also have to be bridged "as we strive to move expeditiously towards entry into force." [47]


Over the last few decades, Israel's nuclear arsenal has been Cairo's primary security concern, which it has always regarded as intolerable. Accordingly, Egypt designed its arms control diplomacy around the objective of eliminating this asymmetry, and gradually conditioned all additional arms control measures on Israel's NPT accession. [48] Thus, Egypt is not a party to the CTBT, the Chemical or the Biological Weapons Conventions, does not adhere to an IAEA Additional Protocol, and has not ratified the Pelindaba Treaty. [49] Guided by this policy, Egypt was supportive of the principles and objectives of the CTBT, voted in favor of UN General Assembly resolutions calling the CTBT a "fundamental instrument in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," [50] but has also maintained that it "cannot regard [the test ban] as a secluded legal instrument, isolated from other treaties." [51]

At this year's conference, Egypt refrained from its usual uncompromising linkage to Israel's NPT adherence, and suggested that its CTBT decision-making process was linked to a successful NPT review process. Egypt's ambassador expressed appreciation for "the determination shown by leaders of NWS towards a world free of Nuclear Weapons," welcomed the Russian-U.S. START negotiations and the revitalization of the Conference on Disarmament, and noted that "there are also strong signals of an emerging collective awareness of the importance of achieving a balanced and comprehensive success at the NPT 2010 Review Conference." Finally, Egypt stressed the importance of the 1995 Middle East resolution, decried the lack of progress over the last 14 years, and affirmed the "the paramount importance" of moving "our agenda together, to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, which will open the doors for a new horizon to the CTBT." [52]


Although Tehran signed the CTBT in 1996 and has since officially supported the treaty, it has also remained content to blame the lack of progress on the "rejection of the ratification process by the United States." [53] Tehran voted for the General Assembly resolutions supporting the treaty and declared the CTBT "an essential element to implement Article VI of the NPT." [54] Nonetheless, Iran's representative told the Article XIV Conference in 2007 that, "the NWS bear the main responsibility in [accelerating] entry into force of the CTBT and they should take the lead in this regard. Ratification of the CTBT by NWS could be considered as a positive step towards restoration of the confidence of NNWSs and international community." [55]

Uncharacteristically, Iran did not deliver a statement at the Article XIV Conference. In light of the recent revelations of a second enrichment facility under construction at Qom and the on-going negotiations with the P5+1 to send LEU to Russia and France for further enrichment for medical isotope production at the Tehran Research Reactor, it is safe to assume that the Iranian government wanted to avoid complicating the situation by getting involved in the CTBT debate.

At the UN First Committee, Iran threatened to deny support to any resolution that included reference to Security Council resolutions. Although Iran originally stated that it would oppose reference to SC resolution 1887, [56] its First Committee delegation indicated to the drafters of the CTBT resolution that it would also oppose the latter given references to SC resolutions 1817 (2006) and 1874 (2009) adopted following the 2006 and 2009 DPRK tests respectively. [57] Ultimately, Iran voted Yes on the CTBT resolution, but requested a separate vote on the paragraph containing a reference to the SC resolutions on the DPRK, and abstained from voting on this last issue.


At the end of the CTBT negotiations in Geneva in 1996, an unfortunate combination of internal and external pressures and constraints motivated New Delhi to block the CTBT draft and its ambassador to declare that, "India will never sign this unequal Treaty, not now, nor later." [58] While Clinton administration pressure on New Delhi in the aftermath of India's 1998 Pokhran tests appeared promising in terms of securing India's support for the treaty, the window of opportunity closed with the U.S. Senate's rejection of the treaty. During the Bush administration, India considered it sufficient to repeat that it "will not stand in the way of the Entry into Force of the CTBT," leaving the international community to interpret this non-committal statement in whatever manner it wished. [59]

Now faced with a pro-CTBT administration in Washington, India's policymakers have decided to remain vague for as long as they can. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said in March that India would sign the CTBT provided that the Treaty "actively contributes to nuclear disarmament," but also noted that his country was "not sure if the CTBT in its present form addresses our concerns." [60] Just a few days later, special envoy Shyam Saran reiterated India's objections to the CTBT. However, he also stated that "if the world moves categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame, then Indo-US differences over the CTBT would probably recede into the background." [61]

Pressure mounted at the end of the summer when a scientist deeply involved in the 1998 tests stated that the yields of their thermonuclear weapon tests were much lower than the government had declared—that they had in fact "fizzled"—and stressed that India would need to conduct more nuclear tests before joining the CTBT. [62] This remains a minority view in India, as numerous scientists refuted these claims and both India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra publicly ostracized Santhanam. [63]

While the U.S.-India nuclear deal and the Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver were both agreed to after a half-official political pledge by New Delhi to respect its moratorium, it is uncertain what India may lose were it to test a new weapon, and then sign the treaty soon thereafter, following the path outlined by both France and China. While National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan argued that India needs "a full-fledged discussion on the CTBT," [64] A.N. Prasad, former director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, summarized best what seems to be the general Indian position: "At such a time, it would not be sensible to go ahead and sign the CTBT. We need to wait for things to cool down first. There is no great hurry either since the US too has not ratified it. Unless they ratify it there is no big hurry." [65]


After the treaty opened for signature in 1996, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations stated that his country supported the treaty in principle but would not sign until its regional security situation allowed, which was widely interpreted to mean once India did so first. [66] After the 1998 tests, Islamabad continued to voice its support for the CTBT and based its refusal to sign on India's unwillingness to do so. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the UNGA that although "Pakistan has consistently supported the conclusion of a CTBT for over 30 years," a CTBT would only be relevant "if Pakistan and India are both parties to the Treaty." [67] Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz reaffirmed this stance in 2005, when he said that India and Pakistan should ratify the CTBT together. This sentiment was repeated again in 2007, when he said that Pakistan could not unilaterally sign the CTBT. [68] Pakistan participated as an observer at the 2007 Article XIV Conference for the first time since 1999, and there too, its representative re-affirmed Islamabad's support for the "objectives and purposes of the treaty." [69] Pakistan attended the 2009 Conference again as an observer, but made no statement. A public debate has not yet erupted in Islamabad, as political elites will most likely await the outcome of the debate in India.

North Korea

While making predictions is always a dangerous game, it is particularly difficult when it comes to North Korea. Pyongyang is prone to change its negotiating posture on a regular basis, making its past actions a poor guide for forecasting future ones. The North's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests, the extremely militarized nature of its society, and its public stances in defiance of the international community draw a pessimistic picture of a country that would never pledge to live within the restraints of a nuclear test ban. [70]

Yet other factors — the North's cynical interpretation of international treaties, the possibility of Chinese pressure, and the questionable health of Kim and his regime — make this reading uncertain. In the process of strengthening its military, the DPRK has generally avoided international treaties and organizations. Pyongyang did not actively participate in CTBT negotiations, and it has neither signed the treaty nor attended any of the Article XIV conferences. After not voting on past CTBT resolutions at the UN First Committee, the DPRK casted a No vote at the October 2010 meeting, protesting against the reference to SC resolutions condemning the North Korean tests. [71] While progress within the framework of the Six-Party talks, or any other negotiating framework, will be key in defining Pyongyang's position, further ratifications of the CTBT will create additional pressure points for the North.


The United States was the only country to vote NO on the CTBT resolution in the General Assembly last year. This year's resolution had the support of all the permanent members of the Security Council as co-sponsors. The Obama Administration has put the CTBT back on the international agenda and in the non-proliferation spotlight. Nonetheless, as most governments are much more static in their foreign policy orientation than the United States, Washington's u-turn carries great significance. In addition, such vigorous steps tend to attract the entire limelight and discourage other parties from playing their aces in order to gather "good-will" points. Washington's ratification will certainly take away a convenient subterfuge for the remaining outliers. Positions will have to be clarified. Debates will have to be conducted.

Nonetheless, this year's Article XIV Conference has proven that speeches, even such oratorical masterpieces as President Obama's and those positions expressed so eloquently by Secretary Clinton, are not enough to convince the world to move forward with steps of their own. It is clear that concrete steps towards U.S. ratification will be a determining factor in the successful outcome of the NPT review Conference, creating the positive environment needed to change the positions of the remaining countries. Currently, the weight rests on the shoulders of the Obama administration to mount the political campaign needed to accomplish these steps.

Additional Resources

  • NTI In Focus Page: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
  • Verifiability, Reliability, and National Security: The Case for U.S. Ratification of the CTBT, Kaegan McGrath, November 2009
  • The United States and the CTBT: Renewed Hope or Politics as Usual? Sean Dunlop and Jean du Preez, February 2009
  • The CNS Inventory: CTBT Page
  • Assessing the Merits of the CTBT, David Hafemeister, November 2009
  • Learning From the 1999 Vote on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Daryl G. Kimball, October 2009


[1] "The Nobel Prize 2009," Norwegian Nobel Committee, October 9, 2009,
[2] CTBTO,
[3] For ratification, 67 votes would have been needed.
[4] For Chinese and Israeli statements see Keith Hansen, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (Stanford University Press, 2006), pp. 68-69.
[5] Opening session of the 2007 Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, CTBTO,
[6] The CTBT requires the ratification of the 44 "nuclear capable" states mentioned in Annex 2 in order to enter into force. See: "Status of signature and ratification," CTBTO,
[7] Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Remarks at the CTBT Article XIV Conference, New York, September 24, 2009,
[8] "Presidential Election Forum: The Candidates on Arms Control," Arms Control Today, September 2000,
[9] Daryl G. Kimball, "The Status of CTBT Entry Into Force: the United States," Arms Control Today, September 22, 2005,
[10] Ibid.
[11] "Arms Control Today Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama,"Arms Control Today, December 2008,
[12] Barack Obama, "Remarks by President Barack Obama in Prague as Delivered," April 5, 2009,
[13] See, for example, James P. Steinberg, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Speech to the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, April 6, 2009, For Rose Gottemoeller, Undersecretary of State for Verification and Compliance see Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Testimony of Rose Gottemoeller, March 26, 2009, p. 4, For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, see "Hillary Clinton's Confirmation Hearing Statement," Council on Foreign Relations, January 13, 2009, See also John F. Kerry, "New directions for foreign relations," Boston Globe, January 13, 2009,; and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Representative Ellen O. Tauscher, June 9, 2009, p.6,
[14] U.S. President Barack Obama's statement at General Debate of the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly, 23 September 2009,
[15] Resolution 1887, adopted by the United Nations Security Council at its 6191st meeting, 24 September 2009,
[16] Ibid.
[17] U.S. President Barack Obama's statement at the 6191st Security Council meeting held Thursday, 24 September 2009, U.N. document S/PV.6191,
[18] "The Test Ban Treaty." New York Times, May 25, 2009, p. A18,
[19] Jon Kyl, "Senator Jon Kyl Statement on Perry-Schlesinger Commission Report," May 7, 2009, For older statements on the issue see Jeff Lindemeyer, "Sen. Kyl Urges Opposition to CTBT Provision," October 25, 2007, For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's views see Glenn Thrush, "McConnell blasts Obama on foreign policy," Politico, April 27, 2009,
[20] "Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," National Academy of Sciences, 2002,
[21] "Studies Show Plutonium Degradation in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Will Not Affect Reliability Soon," National Nuclear Security Administration, November 29, 2006,
[22] Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Remarks by Sidney Drell, The Future of the CTBT, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 7 April 2009,
[23] "U.S. aiming to ratify nuke test ban treaty by next spring," Associated Press, August 7, 2009,
[24] Project Information, Review and Update of Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Committee on International Security and Arms Control, The National Academies,
[25] Committee Membership Information, Review and Update of Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Committee on International Security and Arms Control, The National Academies,
[26] 2009 NPR Terms of Reference Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of Defense, 2 June 2009,
[27] "Obama to Provide Guidance on Nuclear Posture Review," Global Security Newswire, October 26, 2009,
[28] Jeff Robinson, "Former Nuclear Weapons Security Chief Supports Testing Ban Treaty," KCPW Public Radio, Utah, October 21, 2009,
[29] Scowcroft, Talbott, Burns, and Nye, "U.S., Russia must lead on arms control," Politico, October 13, 2009,
[30] Shultz Calls on Republicans to Support CTBT Ratification, Global Security Newswire, Nuclear Threat Initiative, 20 April 2009,
[31] Butler, Desmond, "McCain to Consider Support of Nuclear Test Ban," Associated Press, 24 July 2009,
[32] Influential Republicans Could Throw Weight Behind CTBT, Global Security Newswire, Nuclear Threat Initiative, 27 July 2009,
[33]For example, in 2003 Ambassador Sriwidjaja praised "the important role played by the CTBT regime to contribute effectively to the prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects." See Statement by H.E. Ambassador T.A. Samodra Sriwidjaja, to the Article XIV Conference, September 5, 2003,
[34] Hassan Wirajuda, foreign minister of Indonesia, Speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 8, 2009,
[35] Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Remarks at the CTBT Article XIV Conference, New York, September 24, 2009,
[36] Marty M. Natalegawa, Statement at the Sixth CTBT Artile XIV Conference, September 24, 2009,
[37] For a review of China's test-ban policies over time, see: Medeiros, Reluctant Restraint: The Evolution of China's Nonproliferation Policies and Practices, 1980-2004 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), pp. 30-97 or Wendy Frieman, China, Arms Control, and Nonproliferation (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 38-40.
[38] See: "Joint US-China Statement," Nuclear Threat Initiative, 29 October 1997,, or Jiang Zemin, "Promote Disarmament Process and Safeguard World Security," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 26 March 1999,
[39] Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Yan, to the Article XIV Conference, September 4, 2003,
[40] Of its fourteen planned monitoring facilities, two are operational, nine are in the testing phase, two are under construction, and only one is in the planning stage. See: "Country Profiles – China," CTBTO, For China's diplomatic commitment see Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Yishan, to the Article XIV Conference, September 22, 2005,
[41] "China's National Defense in 2008," Xinhua News Agency, January 20, 2009,
[42] Statement by Cheng Jingye, to the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, May 4, 2009,
[43] For example, see Gareth Evans, "Joint Press Conference between Mr Gareth Evans and Ms Yoriko Kawaguchi, Co-Chairs, International Commission for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament," ICNND, October 21,, Deepti Choubey, "Don't wait for the United States," CTBTO Spectrum, April 2009,, or discussions of one of the authors with former Chinese diplomats at the 2009 NPT Prepcom.
[44] Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Message to the Sixth CTBT Article XIV, New York, September 24, 2009,
[45] "Country Profiles Israel," CTBTO,
[46] See Statement by Gideon Frank, to the Article XIV Conference, November 11, 2001,, Statement by Ariel Levite, to the Article XIV Conference, September 4, 2003,, Statement by Itshak Lederman, to the Article XIV Conference, September 21, 2005,; and Statement by Itshak Lederman, to the Article XIV Conference, September 17, 2007,
[47] David Danieli, Statement at the Sixth CTBT Article XIV Conference, New York, 24 September 2009,
[48] For a review of Egypt's diplomatic efforts see Robert J. Einhorn, "Egypt: Frustrated but Still on a Non-Nuclear Course," in Kurt M. Campbell et al, eds., The Nuclear Tipping Point (Washington: Brookings, 2004), pp. 43-82.
[49] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, "Egypt," James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
[50] UN General Assembly Resolution 61/104, December 19, 2006, and UN General Assembly Resolution 63/87, December 2, 2008.
[51] See Statement by H.E. Ambassador Mahmoud Mubarak, to the Article XIV Conference, November 11-13, 2001,, or Statement by Minister Plenipotentiary Amr Abdul Atta, to the Article XIV Conference, September 23, 2005,
[52] Maged Abdelaziz, Statement to the Sixth CTBT Article XIV Conference, September 25, 2009,
[53] Statement by the Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to the Preparatory Committee of the NPT 2010 Review Conference, May 8, 2007,
[54] Statement by H.E. Dr. M. Javad Zarif, to the Article XIV Conference, November 11, 2001,
[55] Statement by Ambassador Soltanieh, to the Article XIV Conference, September 17-18, 2007,
[56] "We are not able to support the reference to this legally flawed resolution in the First Committee resolutions." Statement by Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee of Iran at the United Nations First Committee of the 64th General Assembly, October 8, 2009,
[57] According to an official attending the UN First Committee meetings.
[58] Statement by Ambassador Arundhati Ghose, to the UN General Assembly, September 10, 1996,
[59] For example, see: "Q.3260 CTBT," December 12, 2005, and "Indian Stand on NPT and CTBT," November 27, 2002,
[60] "India links CTBT with disarmament," Hindustan Times, March 30, 2009,
[61] Speech by Special Envoy to the Prime Minister Shyam Saran, to the Brookings Institution, March 23, 2009,
[62] "Pokhran II tests not fully successful: DRDO scientist," Zeenews, August 27, 2009,
[63] "Behind dud test row is nuke deal," DNA, August 30, 2009,
[64] Siddharth Varadarajan, "NSA: India doesn't need another nuclear test," The Hindu, August 30, 2009,
[65] "Santhanam was worried about India signing the CTBT," RediffNews, August 28, 2009,
[66] Ibid, 124.
[67] Speech by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to the UN General Assembly, September 23, 1998,
[68] "Pakistan will join NPT, CTBT only together with India premier," News Bulletin, October 26, 2005. For the 2007 statement, see: "Pak says no to signing NPT, CTBT unilaterally," The Press Trust of India, April 26, 2007.
[69] Statement by Ambassador Shahbaz, to the Article XIV Conference, September 18, 2007,
[70] For more on this subject, see: Soyoung Kwon, "State Building in North Korea: From a 'Self Reliant' to a 'Military-First' State," Asian Affairs 34 (2003), pp. 286-296.
[71] According to an official attending the UN First Committee meetings.

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