20 Years Later: United States, Japan, and Kazakhstan Reaffirm Support For The CTBT

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The Stimson Center and the Arms Control Association hosted a panel discussion about the history and progress of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 20 years after it was signed on September 24, 1996. To date, 183 states have signed the treaty.

Represented in the panel were senior officials from states that have been strong supporters of the treaty over the past 20 years.

Rose Gottemoeller, the undersecretary for arms control and international security and Adam Scheinman, the special representative of the president of nuclear nonproliferation reiterated the United States’ strong support for the CTBT and its entry into force. Under Secretary Gottemoeller remarked that the United States had been the first nation to sign the CTBT, although it has not yet been ratified by the Senate.

Mitsuru Kitano, ambassador and permanent representative of Japan to the international organizations in Vienna, highlighted Japan’s longstanding engagement with the treaty.

Ambassador Kairat Umarov, ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States pointed to the closing of its Semipalatinsk nuclear site 25 years ago as one indication of its commitment to the ban of nuclear testing. Japan and Kazakhstan currently co-chair the Article XIV Conference to facilitate the entry into force of the treaty.

Although the panelists lauded the accomplishments of the past 20 years, with Gottemoeller characterizing the CTBT as the “longest sought, hardest fought prize,” all agreed that much work is left to be done.

Kitano pointed to North Korea’s fifth nuclear test last Friday as a “stark reminder” of the necessity of the entry into force of a legally binding instrument not to test nuclear weapons, alluding to the grave threat to international security posed by nuclear weapons testing.

Gottemoeller and Scheinman addressed concerns voiced by some Republican Senators about the proposed United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) supporting the existing moratorium on nuclear testing.

Responding to a letter from 33 senators to President Obama opposing the UNSCR:

We are not proposing and will not support the adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) imposing a legally binding prohibition on nuclear testing. Rather, we are pursuing a political statement of the NPT's nuclear-weapon states, all of whom are CTBT signatories, affirming their view that a nuclear test would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty, unless they make their intention clear not to become a party to the treaty.

Scheinman clarified that although the George W. Bush administration had not shown a strong commitment to supporting the CTBT, this policy had been effectively reversed by President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Prague calling for a nuclear weapons free world. The Obama administration has demonstrated a clear intent to comply with the “object and purpose” of the treaty, as is required for all treaty signatories according to Article XVII of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

In closing, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, and Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, called for a careful re-evaluation by the U.S. Senate of the CTBT, with a series of hearings on all the key issues in the coming year.

Krepon cited several key improvements to the treaty since it was not ratified by the Senate in 1999, such as the construction of the International Monitoring System and the development of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program, which allows for maintaining the U.S. arsenal without nuclear explosive testing.

Ambassadors Kitano and Schienman said the UN Security Council to might conclude its work on its resolution late during the week of September 19 or the week following. They said it reaffirm support for the global standard against nuclear testing, urge prompt entry into force of the CTBT, and highlight the value of the International Monitoring System.

Alicia Sanders-Zakre is the 2016 Fall Research Intern at the Arms Control Association and a graduate of Tufts University.