Indonesian Ratification of the CTBT Provides New Momentum for Entry Into Force

Today, the Indonesian parliament approved the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, bringing the number ratifications necessary for entry into force down from 9 to 8.

We hope to “create new momentum so that the other countries in a similar position to Indonesia can also follow suit in beginning their ratification process,” Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in September 2011.

“We believe that [the] CTBT is one of the main instruments for nuclear disarmament,” he said.

“Indonesia will use its good relations to promote the Treaty in Asia and the Middle East and beyond and at the highest political level,” Hemly Fauzy, the Indonesian Parliament’s coordinator for the CTBT ratification process said during a recent visit by an Indonesian parliamentary delegation to the CTBTO headquarters in Vienna.

“We want our country to be at the vanguard of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” said Fauzy. “We intend to extend our involvement in the CTBT beyond the Treaty’s ratification.” Support for the CTBT in the Indonesian Parliament was unanimous across its nine parties, he said.

While ratification by key countries still needed, the long journey to end testing is not over, but with Indonesian ratification we are one step closer.

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important.

Given their existing nuclear test moratoria and 1996 signature of the CTBT, Washington and Beijing already bear most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of CTBT entry into force.

Under the CTBT, the established nuclear-weapon states would be barred from proof-testing new, more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs. Without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer testing nations cannot perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads. With the CTBT in force, global and national capabilities to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states will be significantly greater and short-notice, on-site inspections can be used to investigate suspicious events.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement today that he “welcomes Indonesia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty” and that the United States remains “fully committed” to ratification. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked the Government of Indonesia for their leadership in reinforcing nuclear nonproliferation. Her written statement on to express a commitment to work with the Senate to ratify CTBT.

In his address before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, President Obama said "America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons."

Earlier this year President Obama and President Hu Jintao of China issued a joint statement expressing support for early entry into force of the Treaty. Now is the time to follow Indonesia's example and to translate lofty words into concrete action.

To indicate the seriousness of his intentions and to sustain the effort, nongovernmental organizations have urged President Obama to promptly name a senior, high-level White House CTBT coordinator.

The process of reconsidering the CTBT must be done deliberately and carefully and will take months, meaning that the next realistic opportunity for the Senate to debate and vote on the treaty will be in 2013 or after. But to build the support necessary for U.S. ratification, the Obama administration and Senators concerned about the nuclear proliferation threat can and must begin to review the new evidence that has accumulated in favor of the treaty beginning now.

As the Obama administration provides updated information, undecided senators have a responsibility to take a serious look at the merits of the treaty in light of the new evidence and not rush to judgment on the basis of old or misleading information.

Much has changed since the brief Senate debate on the CTBT in late-1999. As George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, said in April 2009, "[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

U.S. and Chinese ratification is essential and would prompt action by the other CTBT hold out states. The prospect of U.S. ratification of the CTBT has already begun to spur new thinking in India. 

In an August 30, 2009 interview in The Hindu, India’s then-National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan said: “As of now, we are steadfast in our commitment to the moratorium. At least there is no debate in the internal circles about this.”  

Asked if India would have no problem signing the treaty if the others whose ratification is required for the CTBT to enter into force did so, Mr. Narayanan responded: “I think we need to now have a full-fledged discussion on the CTBT. We’ll cross that hurdle when we come to it.”

CTBT ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would help reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Iran was at one time an active participant in the CTBT negotiations and on September 24, 1996 it signed the treaty. Today, Iranian ratification would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads. Continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In a statement issued earlier today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "My message is clear: Do not wait for others to move first. Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed.