8 November 2001


Press Briefing


Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, told correspondents today at a Headquarters press briefing that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), a long-held demand of the disarmament community, was an effective legal barrier against nuclear proliferation and, to that extent, had made it less likely that terrorists would get their hands on nuclear weapons.

Briefing correspondents on the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, to be held in New York from 11 to 13 November, Mr. Dhanapala said that the more nuclear explosions, the more likely it was that there could be a refinement of new generations of nuclear weapons and proliferation.

He was joined by Hannelore Hoppe, Chief, Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch of the Department, who will be Executive Secretary of the Conference, and Daniela Rozgonova, Chief of Public Information of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission.  [The CTBTO is the working title of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, which will be established when the Treaty comes into force to ensure implementation and provide a forum for consultation among States parties].

Mr. Dhanapala explained that the Conference had been convened by the Secretary-General, in his capacity of depositary of the Treaty, following a request that he received from the majority of ratifying States, in accordance with Article XIV of the Treaty.  The Conference will be the second of the so-called "Article XIV" Conferences -- the first had been held in October 1999 in Vienna, Austria -- and the purpose was to examine what measures could be taken to accelerate the ratification process and facilitate the early treaty’s entry into force.

He said the Secretary-General would open the Conference on Sunday at     10 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  The election of President would take place while the Secretary-General was there.  It was expected that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico would be the Conference President.  After the adoption of rules, the agenda, election of officers, and so forth, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO, Wolfgang Hoffman, would describe the Commission's work.

Meetings on Sunday and Monday would be devoted to a general exchange of views of the ratifiers and State signatories, he said.  Seventy-nine States had inscribed on the list of speakers, so far; 59 of them would be at the ministerial level.  France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom were among those States represented at the ministerial level.  On Tuesday, the Conference would hear statements by non-signatory States and representatives of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

He said that the Conference would conclude its work with a Final Declaration and a report.  As of now, the status of the Treaty was, as follows:

161 signatories, with 84 States having ratified it.  According to the Treaty, it could only enter into force when 44 States listed in Annex 2 as possessors of nuclear research or nuclear power reactors have signed and ratified it.  Of those 44, 41 States had signed and 31 had ratified.  Three of those States had neither signed nor ratified -- India, Pakistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Of the nuclear-weapon-States, it was important to note that France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom had ratified the Treaty, while China and the United States had only signed it.

The Treaty bans all nuclear test explosions for military or civilian purposes, he continued.  After its adoption and opening for signature, the Preparatory Commission and its provisional technical secretariat was established to prepare for the Treaty's entry into force.  After that, there would be the CTBTO, itself, established in Vienna.  A global verification regime was being established to monitor compliance with the Treaty.  That consisted of a global monitoring system (IMS), with communications and data management techniques, consultation and clarification process, on-site inspection process, and confidence-building measures.  The IMS consisted of a network of 321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide laboratories, which monitor the entire world for evidence of nuclear explosions in all environments.

Asked by a correspondent whether Mr. Dhanapala had received confirmation on whether or not the United States would be speaking, he said he had not received any information as to whether the United States would participate in the Conference.

What were the prospects for ratification by the 13 "Annex 2" States? another correspondent asked.  “Your guess is as good as mine", Mr. Dhanapala replied.  He continued to hope that those 13 States would come on board.  In the cases of India and Pakistan, for example, they had made statements in the past here in the General Assembly they those would sign the Treaty, but they still had not.

He replied to another question that two non-signatory States had inscribed on the speaker's list –- Libya and Saudi Arabia –- and Pakistan and the Sudan would also attend as non-signatory states.

Asked whether he had received "any signal" from South Asia that either of the two countries would be signing the CTBT during the Conference, he said he had received no such signal.

The United States twice this past week had said "flat out" that it did not support the CTBT, another correspondent said.  Since the United States was needed for the Treaty's entry into force, what could be done to re-engage it on that? he asked.  Mr. Dhanapala said that that subject would be discussed by the States parties, and the Final Declaration would presumably contain a general exaltation to those that had neither signed nor ratifified, or signed and not ratified, to help the Treaty's entry into force.

Another correspondent said that, from a political point of view, it looked like the CTBT was going to be "ineffective for a long time".  From a practical point of view then, had the international monitoring system already started to work and what could that achieve? he asked.

Mr. Dhanapala replied that a week was sometimes a short time in politics, and so it was difficult to dismiss the CTBT as not going to be effective for a long time.  Events changed.  It had been thought some time ago that even having a CTBT signed was going to be a long-term prospect; certainly that had been the policy objective of the Reagan Administration.  But within a few years, a negotiating process had been launched and completed and the CTBT was opened for signature.  So, he would not say that the Treaty's entry into force would be such a long- term process.

Ms. Rozgonova, speaking about implementation, said that about one-third of the system was already functional and providing data from around the world to the international data centre in Vienna, where it was analyzed and processed.  Of the 321 verification stations, more than 100 were already in place and functional.  The stations were built up almost continuously, every year, and the plan was that in three to five years, depending upon the political climate surrounding the Treaty, the whole system would be in place.

Asked if there were any stations in the South Asia region and whether those were functional, she held up a map of the globe, which she said showed the location of those 321 stations plus 16 laboratories -- altogether,             337 facilities.  Those were spread fairly evenly to cover the whole globe, in an equal geographical spread.  There might not be an exactly equal spread at any given moment, but the idea was to cover the globe as best as possible and then go from there.

Replying to a series of questions about cooperation from the United States on technical and financial bases, she said that the United States was indeed cooperating "very closely", adding that it had been from the start and was doing so, even now.  The United States had provided the prototype of the software for data analysis, had made it accessible and allowed that to be incorporated into the whole system of stations around the globe, most of which were seismological.  So, its cooperation on both the technical and financial levels had been excellent.  The United States had contributed 25 percent of the budget and was always up to date on its payments.

To what extent would the monitoring system pick up the use of a dirty –- perhaps not a nuclear explosion –- but something radiological? another correspondent asked.  Ms. Rozgonova said that it would pick it up, for sure, if nothing else through the radionuclide laboratories.  Those were basically the "nose" of the whole system and would definitely monitor radionuclide particles in the air, presenting clear evidence.

With respect to the "reach" of one verification station, that was very hard to tell, she said.  Of the 321 stations, most were seismological stations, and for obvious reasons.  Those were the best developed, even before the CTBT was ever born, and but also because a nuclear test explosion, in many ways, resembled an earthquake.  Radionuclide laboratories measured the quantity of radionuclide particles and various gases released into the atmosphere in the case of a test or explosion.  The other technologies were hydroacoustic, which meant measuring underwater, and infrasound, which was a very short spectrum of sound, a frequency sound, that was created by natural and man-made phenomenon in the atmosphere.

That, she said, helped to determine whether that was a test event or a natural one.  So, it was really difficult to tell the range of one particular station.  In fact, in any event, various stations would contribute to identification of the event, and all four technologies would, too.  That would not be one station.  There would be 16 hydroacoustical programmes, for example, which covered the globe, since sound spreads underwater in a very effective and efficient way.

Another correspondent noted that, from the appearance of the map (made available as part of a press kit), there was no station in India.  Under whose authority had those stations operated?

Ms. Rozgonova said that those stations operated under the authority of the host government or host State.  Of course, the stations were certified and had been updated, upgraded or built from scratch by the Preparatory Commission.  Once built, those were actually under the authority of the host State, with the understanding that the data went back to Vienna, where it was analyzed.  The data was actually the property of all Member States.  The raw data did not go directly to the States; it was first analyzed.

So, the correspondent said, the host country could analyze the data before sending it to Vienna, and if they wanted to, "fudge" it…

Ms. Rozgonova said that those countries did have a certain jurisdiction over the station, itself, and she had known one case, in particular, where the station had been switched off, because of a test that was being planned.  Normally speaking, however, that did not happen.  There was a legal underpinning for that, in the form of a facilatory agreement, which was the legal document that was signed between the Preparatory Commission and the host State and which spelled out the conditions under which those stations were being operated and its data forwarded to the Preparatory Commission.  That was a bilateral document between the Preparatory Commission and the host State.

What was the punishment for the State that had turned off the station to conduct the test?  A correspondent asked:  "Were there any penalties under the CTBT?"  She said that she had not thought there were any penalties foreseen in the Treaty for such a case.  The consequences would be political.  That had occurred in 1998.  It was one of those two States.

No, there were no monitoring stations in India, she said to another question.

Had the Indian Government not allowed her to set up one of those stations or had that been a strategic decision on its part? he asked.  She said she did not think that had been a "strategic decision".

Mr. Dhanapala added that the correspondent might recall that when the Treaty was negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament, India had not joined consensus and then the negotiated document had been brought to the General Assembly through a resolution and finally adopted there.  It had only been more recently that India had expressed an intention to sign the Treaty.

With an already very effective and global monitoring system in place. and given that the nuclear-weapon States had all declared moratoriums and, in some

cases, dismantled their test sites, how much of a concern was it that the Treaty, itself, had not entered into force? a correspondent asked.

Mr. Dhanapala said that was a major concern, because the legally binding effect of the Treaty was "put beyond any doubt" once it entered into force.  So, legally speaking, a Treaty was only really fully-fledged once it entered into force.  The CTBT Organization had not been established; that could not be established until the Treaty entered into force; and, therefore, all that the provisional technical secretariat could do was only the preliminary work of setting up the verification system.  It was of great importance, therefore, in terms of the legal applicability of the Treaty and of the entire infrastructure, that the Treaty enter into force.

Another correspondent asked about the nature of the political sanction against the country that had turned off the station, since no one in the room was identifying it.

Ms. Rozgonova said that, at the time that event had occurred, that information was known.  Of course, it was not the role of the provisional secretariat to "point fingers"; that was up to the Member States, among themselves.  There were no sanctions, really.  First of all, there was a test that was not announced ahead of time, but there was a little sign that something was probably in the offing.  But it was the Member States among themselves who discussed those things and took whatever, if any, political measures they wished.

In response to a further question, she said she was not aware of any plans to build any stations in India.

Had the monitoring system picked up the collapse of the World Trade Towers? a correspondent asked.  She said that was not information that, in any way, would be disseminated, but she was sure that, as the seismological stations were very well distributed on this continent, they for sure had picked it up.

Ms. Hoppe told correspondents, in response to a number of questions, that the draft of the Final Declaration would be made available as a document at the start of the Conference, on Sunday morning.  That had been circulated in September to all signatory States and, as everyone was aware, that draft had been negotiated in Vienna for some time.

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For information media. Not an official record.