1 September 2011
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Preparatory Commission for Comprehensive

 

Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization

 


While it was expected that States would continue to oppose the testing of nuclear weapons during the upcoming high-level meeting on the issue, it was more important to ensure the necessary ratifications to allow the entry into force of the international instrument banning tests, an official of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said at a Headquarters press conference today.


“What we need is not declaratory policies but support,” said Annika Thunborg, Spokesperson and Chief of Public Information for the Organization’s Preparatory Commission.  Speaking ahead of the 23 September Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (Article XIV), she said 182 States had signed the instrument so far, and 154 had ratified it.  For its entry into force, however, ratification was required by all so-called Annex 2 States, so designated during negotiations leading up to the General Assembly’s adoption of the Treaty in 1996, she noted.  Of those States, nine were yet to ratify the instrument — China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.


Ms. Thunborg said that in the 15 years since agreement was reached on the text of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), there had been a halt in nuclear testing, which had been rampant in prior decades.  President Bill Clinton of the United States had immediately signed the Treaty, followed by the leaders of all the other nuclear-weapons States and many more.  A system with 63 stations around the world had been created to monitoring the world for explosions 24 hours a day, she said, adding that it had successfully detected the two tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the only ones to have occurred since agreement on the text of the Treaty.


All other States had observed a moratorium, but ratifications had stalled, keeping the door open for a future testing race, she said, adding:  “History has taught us how unreliable a moratorium can be.”  Today marked the fiftieth anniversary of the breaking of the first moratorium on testing, she recalled, noting that it had followed the peaking of tensions around the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.  Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union had broken the moratorium, followed by the United States.


A “nuclear-testing frenzy” had followed, she continued, pointing out that more than 250 bombs had exploded in 16 months, more than had been tested in the previous 16 years.  The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 had brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, shocking the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union into negotiations on a comprehensive test-ban treaty.  However, those negotiations had failed, with progress subsequently stalling until the right conditions had suddenly come together in 1996, she said, emphasizing the need for a similar breakthrough to secure the Treaty’s entry into force.


In response to questions, Ms. Thunborg noted that all the necessary countries had signed the instrument and remained active in the Organization, with monitoring stations on their territories.  The United States Administration was “very supportive”, and all of Europe had ratified the Treaty, as had almost all countries in Latin America.  Some ratifications were missing in Africa, but the Middle East and Asia were the primary problematic regions.


Noting that each country had its own reasons for failing to ratify the Treaty, she said some linked their ratifications with those of others as well as with perceived security threats.  Domestic politics were also involved because in some cases, retaining the option to perform nuclear tests was seen as a matter of national status.  Some 100 minister would attend the upcoming conference, and it was anticipated that much pressure to ratify the Treaty would be exerted on the nine Annex 2 States.


Responding to other questions, she said she saw little linkage between the lack of Treaty ratifications and the dearth of progress in the Conference on Disarmament.  Negotiating the Treaty had, in fact, been that body’s last successful accomplishment, as it had become deadlocked over such issues as the start of negotiations on a fissile materials treaty, discussions on which had begun in 1998.


Answering another question, she said nuclear-monitoring equipment was indeed sensing much information on Japan’s Fukushima disaster.  Besides explosions and seismic events, it had picked up radiation in the atmosphere, the oceans, on the ground and underground.  Indeed, the equipment was so sensitive that it still picked up radioactivity from Chernobyl, she said, adding that the data on the dispersion of radioactivity from Fukushima was available to all Member States.


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For information media • not an official record