11 November 2001


Press Briefing


At Headquarters this afternoon, the newly elected President of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban treaty (CTBT), which began today, briefed correspondents on the Conference’s morning session.  The Conference is set to run through Tuesday, 13 November.

Mr. Miguel Marin Bosch of Mexico, the Conference President, recalled his near thirty-year involvement with disarmament issues at the United Nations and in Geneva.  During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the CTBT rivalled only apartheid in the number of resolutions it generated within the Organization, he said.  Still very close to his heart, the Treaty, which controlled the testing and, concurrently, improvement upon nuclear devices, had now become a symbol of the end of the global nuclear arms race.

The Treaty had been opened for signature in 1996, and the aim of the current Conference was to bring aboard those States whose ratification was critical to the its success.  But the machinery for the Treaty’s entry into force was very complicated.  Before the Treaty could enter into force, it would have to be ratified by the 44 States, listed in its annex, with the identified capacity to test nuclear devices.  Thus far, there were 161 signatories and, with the addition yesterday of Singapore, 85 ratifications.

Of the 44 countries whose ratification was needed for the Treaty to enter into force there were 31 who had ratified it, he continued.  Three countries, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan, had not signed the Treaty.  He added that there were 10 countries who had signed the Treaty but not ratified it. 

Highlighting the events of the day, Mr. Bosch said the Conference had heard 16 speakers during its morning session, of which 12 had been foreign ministers.  There had been much high-level interest in the work of the Conference, he added, and 80 delegations would take the floor during its three-day run, including a number of nuclear regulatory agencies, regional groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

A correspondent noted that the United States, which had consistently expressed reservations about the Treaty’s verification requirements as well as measures to ensure compliance, had no delegation present at the Conference.  In light of Russia’s proposal this morning to explore the issue of additional verification measures with the United States, he wondered if there was any way to bring that delegation back to the table.

Mr. Bosch recalled that the Clinton Administration had signed the Treaty, but the United States Senate had refused to ratify it.  The Treaty remained with the Senate, he said, and there had even been rumors that the current administration had been exploring ways to “un-sign” the instrument.  The position was simple, there was a group within the country’s administration that had opposed the CTBT for decades and it appeared that the current President agreed with them.

That sort of “allergy’ to certain instruments was nothing new in the field of arms control, he continued, noting that for nearly twenty years, China and France had appeared allergic to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and then suddenly in the 1990's they became parties to that treaty.  Similarly, the United States took 50 years to ratify the Geneva Protocol, banning the use of bacteriological and some chemical weapons.  “Things just don’t seem to move too fast on disarmament issues,” he said.

Obviously, he continued, there was an effort being made by some delegations to explore the possibility to get around the objections of the United States. Russia’s position appeared to be indicative of a mood to accommodate that country. At the same time, he wasn’t certain to what extent the United States would be interested in exploring such issues.

Another correspondent asked, realistically, how could the Treaty go forward without the participation of the United States?  Mr. Bosch said these things had a way of weighing on the souls and consciences of countries.  He noted that some fifty years ago, no one would even entertain the idea of certain nations giving up their colonies.  But eventually, the weight of petitioners as well as pressure from the United Nations and the international community had led to eventual independence for many countries.

“If you keep up the pressure on the United States, I believe they will come around,” he continued.  While it was perhaps necessary to explore ways to allay the country’s reservations, he said high-level international recognition of the Treaty’s importance could also play a crucial role in bringing the United States back on board.  Moreover, he believed that there was not unanimity on the disarmament issue within the United States Government.  Over time, he had seen many things change, including one party rule in his own country.  “So I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but almost,” he said.

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For information media. Not an official record.