States Gather to Assess Effort to Bring CTBT Into Force: "Business as Usual" Will Not Do

In 1996, during the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) negotiations, some states insisted on a complex formula for entry into force. Article XIV of the treaty requires that forty-four specific states with nuclear reactors on their soil, listed in Annex II of the treaty, must ratify to trigger full implementation.

In response, other states insisted on a provision that allows for a conference of state parties every two years to exhort holdout states to sign, ratify, and develop a diplomatic strategy to accelerate entry into force.

On September 29, the 9th Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force was held at the United Nations in New York. The UN Secretary General and representatives from key states parties met and spoke in support of the treaty and its entry into force. Eight states listed in Annex II must still ratify, or sign and ratify, for entry into force: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida began the conference with strong statements discussing their goals to take a more aggressive approach over the next two years of their co-presidencies in efforts to bring the CTBT into force. Idrissov warned delegates he would be aggressive or even “undiplomatic,” in his attempts to push for a legally binding nuclear test ban, noting that as states that have suffered from nuclear detonations, “Japan and Kazakhstan have the moral right to be aggressive.” 

Two key hold-out states, the United States and China expressed their support for entry into force and promised strong efforts to prepare the ground for ratification in their respective capitals, but offered no details on how or when they might complete the process.

The Article XIV Conference delegates adopted a Final Declaration which affirms “that a universal and effectively verifiable Treaty constitutes a fundamental instrument in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Highlights from key speeches are posted below.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon opened the conference by stressing the importance of entry into force of the CTBT:

“But nearly two decades after its negotiation, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has still not entered into force. A breakthrough is long overdue.

I welcome all the Treaty’s steadfast supporters here. I am also pleased to see representatives from States that have not yet either signed or ratified the Treaty. I count on you to do so quickly. We need every person in this room to show leadership on the urgent international imperative of ending nuclear tests.”

“Together, we must translate the norm against testing into a legally-binding prohibition. To the eight remaining Annex 2 States, whose ratification is required to bring the Treaty into force, I say this: You have a special responsibility. You must not wait for others to act before ratifying.”

The Co-President of the 2015 Article XIV Conference Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov outlined his plans to aggressively pursue CTBT ratification by the remaining 8 Annex II states:

“We, of course, can do, and call and convene, different conferences, seminars, workshops, to try to convince these remaining eight countries to join the treaty, but I think we have to take a separate—a different—approach.

We believe that it should be not business as usual. I invited Minister Kashida to be more aggressive, and I got his full support, and I got the support of Dr. Zerbo, on this more aggressive approach.”

“We know that achieving a nuclear-free world is a difficult task, but as a young nation, we want to inspire everyone to achieve this goal. I think Japan and Kazakhstan have the moral right to be aggressive. We suffered both from the most ugly effects from the nuclear, from the military use of the nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, which we marked the 70th anniversary of this year, the 500 nuclear explosions which happened on the territory of Kazakhstan, is a great reminder of the most devastating danger of this type of weapon.

Therefore, I want to thank for this honor, to elect Kazakhstan to the presidency of this conference. We hope that our aggressive approach will be understood by all the delegations, particularly by the eight delegations of eight countries—I see my good friend, Rose Gottemoeller [U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control], thank you for coming and joining us today—I invite the remaining seven countries to be very mindful and responsive to our aggressive approach. We will develop a plan with Minister Kashida, we will develop a plan with Dr. Zerbo, and we hope that these two years will not be a waste of time.”

The other Co-President of the 2015 Article XIV Conference Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida described a three-part plan for promoting the treaty:

“The first is the promotion of political efforts, at highest levels possible, to invite signature and ratification of the CTBT by those states which have not yet done so, focusing in particular on Annex 2 States. I would like to encourage all of you here to actively join this effort.

The second promotion is further development of the International Monitoring System (IMS) towards its completion. In particular, it is crucial to provide further training for operators of the National Data Centre, who support the IMS.

The third promotion is sharing the awareness in the civil society, across borders and generations, of the catastrophes resulting from the use of nuclear weapons. Through this effort, I sincerely hope that people all over the world will be made acutely aware of the need for the early entry force of the CTBT."

Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Dr. Lassina Zerbo argued:

“We need something more. We need States to take responsibility and infuse the Article XIV process with the passion and urgency of witnesses like [Honorary Ambassador of Kazakhstan’s ATOM project] Karipbek Kuyukov. We need a new form of multilateral cooperation and coordination to complement, add to, and enhance this process. The twentieth anniversary of the Treaty will be the time to tear away the abstract and make the nuclear test ban real. Recent events have shown that, with determination and collaboration, States can take giant leaps in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini said:

“[W]e regret that almost twenty years after the opening of the CTBT for signature it has yet to enter into force. The EU is pleased that at the NPT 2015 Review Conference the CTBT was widely recognized as a core element of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime. We hope that this profound support can serve as a good basis for progressing towards the entry into force of the Treaty.

The EU calls on all States who have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Treaty without any preconditions or delay, in particular the remaining 8 Annex II States, whose ratification is essential for the Treaty’s entry into force. The cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in all its aspects.”

Unfortunately, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Wang Qun said nothing new about the prospects for Chinese ratification:

“[E]fforts must be made to seek a common security, thus consolidating the foundation of the entry into force of the treaty. We should unwaveringly pursue peace and development to build a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, eliminating confrontations and distrust, abandon zero-sum concept and the Cold War mentality.”

“As one of the Annex 2 States, China has been committed to facilitating the early entry into force of the treaty in a responsible manner. The Chinese government is making positive and continuous efforts to advance domestic ratification process. China attaches great importance to domestic preparation for the implementation of the treaty and has made steady progress in constructions of the monitoring stations in China in collaboration with the [Provisional Technical Secretariat] PTS, we have solved equipment and technology related problems in 5 monitoring stations in China…Monitoring data is now being transmitted in real time to the International Data Centre. China is willing to further cooperate with the PTS in facilitiating the verification and certification of all the monitoring stations in China at an early date.”

Russian Deputy Director for Arms Control and Nonproliferation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vadim S. Smirnov complained that:

“In the 2 years since our previous conference, not a single state out of the eight CTBT Annex 2 states, whose ratification is necessary to make the treaty effective, has taken any concrete steps towards acceding this instrument.

Positive momentum regarding the CTBT, due largely to the serious prospects of possible ratification by the United States, has given way to disappointment and concern over the fate of the treaty. The situation around the CTBT has been aggravated by the generally unfavorable situation in the field of nuclear nonproliferation.”

“We’d like to draw your attention once again to the necessity for all states to adhere to the spirit and letter of the CTBT pending its entry into force. It is important to ensure a nuclear testing moratorium for this period. Russia intends to keep observing it, provided other nuclear powers would do the same.”

“In conclusion, we reiterate our call to the states which have not signed and/or ratified the CTBT to do so immediately. We expect practical steps from the United States, which has repeatedly declared its intention to launch the process of treaty ratification.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the United States would continue its efforts to build support for ratification and urged other Annex II states not to wait for the United States to act:

“Given the clear and convincing evidence, we know that an in-force Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is good for the security of the United States and it is good for international security. It is a key step to diminishing the world’s reliance on nuclear weapons and reducing the risk of a nuclear arms race.

The United States is committed to the Treaty, and we are working aggressively to build the case at home for ratification. Other Annex 2 states should also be actively pursuing ratification and sharing their plans for how they are doing so. There is no reason to wait on any other country. Our goal is universality.”

“This is not an easy task, but it is a worthy one. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is not an abstract concept for a theoretical world. It a firm and certain step towards peace, towards reason, and towards security for our own citizens and all the peoples of the world."

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz released a statement on the occasion of the conference noting that the United States no longer needed nuclear explosive testing:

“The case for the CTBT has never been stronger.  Over the past 20 years, the United States has gained high confidence in our ability to maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of our much smaller nuclear arsenal through the scientific, technical, and engineering capabilities of our Stockpile Stewardship Program, without the need for nuclear explosive testing.  During that same period, the International Monitoring System for verifying compliance with the CTBT has developed and matured to the point that nuclear explosive testing by anyone, even at very low yields, will be detected.”

Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball, who presented a statement on behalf of 44 nongovernmental organizations and experts, suggested three initiatives that could be undertaken to redouble the diplomatic efforts to bring the CTBT into force:

“1. Use this Article XIV Conference as a launching point for a powerful, high-level, ongoing multilateral diplomatic campaign, led by states such as Japan and Kazakhstan—two states that have experienced first hand the devastating effects of nuclear weapon explosions—to increase diplomatic efforts to create the conditions for ratification by one or more key Annex II states in the next year.

2. Utilize the time leading up to the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the CTBT in September 2016 to launch a public campaign to raise governmental and public awareness about the dangers of nuclear testing, the possible resumption of nuclear testing, and the value of the CTBT as a critical element in a comprehensive global strategy to halt the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, halt the further spread of nuclear weapons, and contribute to the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

3. CTBT States parties, the seven states observing nuclear testing moratoria, and the UN Security Council should explore new approaches to reinforce the global taboo against nuclear testing and clarify that nuclear test explosions by any nation are a threat to international peace and security.”

In the spirit of "working aggressively to build the case at home for ratification," the U.S. government is beginning to spearhead more events on the value of the CTBT and the success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Looking ahead, on October 21, the Energy Department is hosting a commemorative event, hosted by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, celebrating over 20 years of Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship and commemorating President Bill Clinton's 1995 decision to seek a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.