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27 September 2021

Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty ‘Essential Element of Nuclear Disarmament’, High Representative Tells Security Council

The nuclear test ban treaty adopted 25 years ago has already established a powerful norm against atomic testing, achieving near‑universal compliance before its entry into force, speakers told the Security Council today, denouncing just one country for being the only violator in this century.

The Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty is “an essential element of nuclear disarmament” and “a building block for a world free of nuclear weapons” — the United Nations highest disarmament priority, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said in a briefing that marked the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the Treaty’s opening for signature in September 1996.  She added that the Treaty has since achieved near‑universal adherence, with 185 signatories and 170 ratifying States, making it one of the most widely supported treaties not just in the disarmament and arms control field but in multilateral diplomacy.

The best way to uphold that norm is to reaffirm and enhance support for the Treaty and strive to bring about its entry into force, she remarked.  To do so, she added, it is imperative to empower the youth and achieve synergies with other nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation processes, such as the forthcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said that the Treaty has created and sustained a norm so powerful that less than one dozen tests have been conducted since its adoption — and only one country has violated it since 2000.

“Compare the situation today with the world before the adoption of the Treaty, where the average explosive yield of nuclear tests each year was equivalent to nearly 1,000 Hiroshima‑sized bombs,” he said.  Nuclear testing not only created geopolitical instability and supported the development of more powerful and deadly nuclear weapons, but it also caused untold human suffering and environmental damage.  The Test‑Ban Treaty “is already a great success story”, he declared.

Magdalene Wangui Wanyaga, a member of CTBTO Youth from Kenya, said that many members of this international group are the same age as the Treaty, but the instrument has yet to enter into force.  [For the Treaty to enter into force, all 44 “nuclear‑capable” States listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty must sign and ratify it.  Of them, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified it.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan have yet to sign it.]

Outlining various ways to promote the Test‑Ban Treaty, she went on to underscore the importance of education to providing the necessary awareness of disarmament.  Members of CTBTO Youth have been educated on the importance and relevance of the Treaty through introductory curricula, interactive webinars, research fellowship programmes and various initiatives.  Quoting the words of the former First Lady of South Africa, Graça Machel, she said:  “Preventing the conflicts of tomorrow means changing the mindset of youth today.”

In the ensuing debate, many speakers emphasized the importance of upholding a moratorium on nuclear testing, urging the States that have not done so, particularly Annex 2 States, to sign and ratify the Treaty.

Thomas Byrne, Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, urging the organ’s five permanent members to renew their commitment to a moratorium.  He also endorsed the recent reiteration by President Joseph Biden of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation that nuclear war “cannot be won and must never be fought”.

Rein Tammsaar, Estonia’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said whenever a nuclear test was conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Security Council strongly and unanimously condemned it.  That country’s stated intentions and activities to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programme continue to pose great concern, he said, urging Pyongyang to take concrete steps towards a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

The representative of the United States said his country supports the Treaty’s goals and continues to observe its “zero‑yield” nuclear testing moratorium, urging all those countries possessing nuclear weapons to adopt a similar policy.

China’s delegate rejected the “utilitarian” approach by a scant few nuclear‑weapons States to make pronouncements while simultaneously helping non‑nuclear‑weapons States acquire submarines with nuclear technology.  China has scrupulously upheld its nuclear weapons testing moratorium and will not become an obstacle to its entry into force, “come what may” in the shifting international climate, he said.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said his country ratified the Test‑Ban Treaty in 2000 and has since strictly adhered to its provisions.  Urging eight countries listed in Annex 2 to take practical steps, he rejected any attempts to obtain strategic advantages by refusing to participate in key international agreements and warned against the announced development of new systems by a certain alliance.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s Foreign Secretary, expressed his country’s commitment to the goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, which can be achieved through a step‑by‑step process underwritten by an agreed global and non‑discriminatory multilateral framework.  While India participated in the negotiations of the Test‑Ban Treaty, it was not able to join the Treaty because it failed to address his country’s core national concerns.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (also on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Tunisia), France, United Kingdom, Norway and Viet Nam.  The representatives of Italy and South Africa, co‑chairs of the Article XIV conference — a biennial conference aimed to promote the Treaty’s entry into force — held on 23 and 24 September, also delivered statements.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:43 a.m.

Briefings

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, describing the norm against nuclear testing as “one of the most hard‑won gains of the post‑cold‑war era”, stressed that norm exists today because of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, which was violated by only one State in this century.  Three decades in the making, a prohibition on nuclear testing has been a goal of the international community almost since the dawn of the atomic age, and the Treaty represents the fulfilment of that goal.  From the deserts of Nevada to the steppes of Semipalatinsk to the outback of Australia and the atolls of the South Pacific, nuclear testing has done lasting damage to pristine environments, human health and some of the most vulnerable communities in our international family.  This alone should be enough to outlaw nuclear testing in perpetuity.  Yet more than 2,000 tests that have been conducted since 1945, ushering in the arrival of new nuclear‑armed States and dangerous growth in the arsenals of their predecessors, she deplored, describing the Treaty as “an essential element of nuclear disarmament” and “a building block for a world free of nuclear weapons” — the United Nations highest disarmament priority.

Since its adoption by the General Assembly and opening for signature in September 1996, the Treaty has achieved a near‑universal adherence, with 185 signatories and 170 ratifying States, making it one of the most widely supported treaties not just in the disarmament and arms control field but in multilateral diplomacy, she continued.  The Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization’s (CTBTO) international monitoring system, which provides round‑the‑clock, real‑time monitoring of any explosive nuclear activities on Earth, is now more than 90 per cent complete, with over 300 stations certified, she remarked, depicting this as “a towering achievement”.  Despite all these remarkable achievements, there are still many challenges, she added, stressing that the best way to uphold the norm against testing is to reaffirm and enhance support for the Treaty — to reinforce its existing strengths and to strive to bring about its entry into force.

To do so, she emphasized, the youth must be empowered.  The Treaty Organization has made great strides in this area, with its CTBTO Youth Group initiative now counting nearly 1,000 participants.  The Treaty does not operate in a vacuum, she added, and its full potential is realized when it works in tandem with other processes related to nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation.  The forthcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is one occasion to do so.  It is vital to continue to provide support for the international monitoring system and further strengthen the Treaty Organization’s technical capabilities to detect activities related to nuclear testing.  “Today we rightly celebrate the twenty‑fifth anniversary of a hard‑won victory in multilateral nuclear disarmament diplomacy that has consistently benefited the international community,” she said.

ROBERT FLOYD, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization, said the significance of the Treaty and its twenty‑fifth anniversary should be understood within the broader context of the world’s collective goal of universal, non‑discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament.  “While there may be differing views on the best path to achieve this goal, a verifiable and enforceable ban on nuclear testing must be a core component of the legal and technical architecture of a nuclear‑weapons‑free world,” he said.  First proposed in 1954, the long‑awaited and eagerly anticipated Test Ban has been decades in the making.  He recalled that, with its opening for signature 25 years ago, the international community declared unequivocally that the era of unrestrained nuclear testing had come to an end.

Since that time, he said, the Test‑Ban Treaty has created and sustained a norm against nuclear testing so powerful that less than one dozen tests have been conducted since its adoption — and only one country has violated it since 2000.  “Compare the situation today with the world before the adoption of the Treaty, where the average explosive yield of nuclear tests each year was equivalent to nearly 1,000 Hiroshima‑sized bombs,” he said.  Nuclear testing not only created geopolitical instability and supported the development of more powerful and deadly nuclear weapons, but it also caused untold human suffering and environmental damage.  The Test‑Ban Treaty “is already a great success story”, he said, citing near‑universal adherence to the Treaty’s prohibition on nuclear explosions.  With 185 signatures and 170 ratifications, there has been much progress towards its universalization.

Emphasizing that the Treaty’s state‑of‑the‑art global verification regime is nearly complete, he said more than 90 per cent of the 337 monitoring facilities worldwide are in place, while the Test‑Ban Treaty Organization’s data processing and analysis capabilities continue to improve.  The on‑site inspection element of the verification regime is already at an advanced stage of readiness.  In addition, the Treaty’s verification regime also provides useful data for other civil and scientific purposes, including tsunami warning and climate change studies.  All States signatories are entitled to equal access to the data and to benefit from technical training and capacity‑building programmes.  Praising the Article XIV Conference held last week, led by co‑presidents Italy and South Africa, he said participants took concrete actions to secure additional signatures and ratifications and recognized the strong appetite for more civil society and youth engagement.

MAGDALENE WANGUI WANYAGA, a member of CTBTO Youth from Kenya, said many members of this international group are the same age as the Test‑Ban Treaty, but the instrument has yet to enter into force.  The Treaty Organization’s state‑of‑the‑art international monitoring system — consisting of 337 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring stations and laboratories around the world — has proven its capacity to act as a comprehensive global monitoring system.  Data have been used in various scientific applications, which are not limited to investigating climate change, tracking radiation and warning about tsunamis.  In her case, data have been especially valuable to her training as a seismic analyst.  Outlining various ways to promote the Treaty, she stressed the importance of education to provide the necessary awareness of disarmament.  Members of CTBTO Youth have been educated on the importance and relevance of the Treaty through introductory curricula, interactive webinars, research fellowship programmes and various initiatives.  Quoting the words of the former First Lady of South Africa, Graça Machel, she said:  “Preventing the conflicts of tomorrow means changing the mindset of youth today.”

“Science diplomacy” is another tool to promote the Treaty, she remarked, recalling that she learned diplomacy by attending conferences on the science‑policy interface.  Calling for greater use of science communication to inform policymaking, she also underscored the need to include the young generation in the sphere of nuclear disarmament through dialogue, education platforms and capacity‑building events.  “This makes us the best advocates for international disarmament and non‑proliferation which will ultimately make the world a more peaceful, just and sustainable place,” she said, urging the organizations and entities at national, regional and global levels to empower youth to promote and advocate these noble values.  “We can only close the door on nuclear testing for good if we keep reminding our Governments, communities and leaders that this is one of the most urgent tasks before us,” she declared.

Statements

THOMAS BYRNE, Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland and Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, said nuclear weapons testing has affected the lives and health of generations of people around the globe and left a lasting mark on the environment.  Since 1998, all States with one exception have respected the strong de facto international norm created by the Treaty and upheld moratoria on nuclear weapons testing.  Endorsing the recent reiteration by President Joseph Biden of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation that nuclear war “cannot be won and must never be fought”, he urged the Council’s five permanent members to renew and reiterate their commitment to a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.  He outlined the benefits of the international monitoring system — part of the Test‑Ban Treaty’s verification regime — as well as its tangential scientific and practical benefits, which include providing warnings about seismic and tsunami activity.  “In this way, the Treaty is already contributing significantly to disaster risk reduction and reducing humanitarian need,” he said, noting that has all been accomplished without the Treaty’s entry into force and urging States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify it.

REIN TAMMSAAR, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, urged the remaining eight Annex 2 States to sign and ratify the Treaty without further delay, stressing that it has established a strong norm against nuclear testing.  Since 1998, all but one State have de facto respected the global norm against nuclear explosions and observed moratoria on nuclear weapons testing.  Whenever a nuclear test was conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Security Council strongly and unanimously condemned it.  That country’s stated intentions and activities to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programme continue to pose great concern, he said, urging Pyongyang to take concrete steps towards a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, avoid any further provocations and engage in meaningful discussions with all relevant parties to achieve lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

HARSH VARDHAN SHRINGLA, Foreign Secretary of India, expressed his country’s commitment to the goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, which can be achieved through a step‑by‑step process underwritten by an agreed global and non‑discriminatory multilateral framework.  While India participated in the negotiations of the draft Test‑Ban Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, it was not able to join the Treaty because it failed to address several core national concerns.  He voiced support for the Conference on Disarmament — as the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum — to play its role in advancing the global disarmament agenda and negotiating legally binding instruments.  Outlining India’s engagement in a range of related initiatives and forums, he spotlighted its piloting of the General Assembly resolution “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction”, adopted annually by consensus.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) said his country, together with Australia and New Zealand, will present the annual resolution to promote the Test‑Ban Treaty in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).  On the commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests, Mexico, on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated the region’s firm condemnation of any type of test in any part of the world and called for the early entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty.  Progress is being made and “we are moving in the right direction”, he said, urging the States that have not yet done so, particularly those listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty, to ratify it.  The Security Council must not sidestep its important role in this area.  In the past, it has condemned various nuclear tests and Mexico trusts that the Council will remain firm in that position.  He then called on all international actors to join forces and promote synergies through the different components of the multilateral architecture.  The next Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the first meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons must be natural spaces to enhance the interaction of all the legal instruments at disposal, he added.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), also speaking on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, said the Caribbean and Africa have stood unwavering in their call for the total elimination and non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear testing, including by creating regional zones free of nuclear weapons by signing the Tlatelolco Treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Pelindaba Treaty in Africa.  In that regard, she welcomed the convening of a United Nations Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and encouraged all invited States to participate in it constructively.  Describing the Test‑Ban Treaty’s implementation as a global imperative, she drew attention to rising geopolitical tensions and fragmentation and stressed that nuclear science and technology ought only to be employed for safe, secure and peaceful uses.  States have a sovereign right to pursue such uses in their pursuit of sustainable development but must be guided by the oversight of IAEA.  She went on to voice concern about the views of Annex 2 States whose ratifications are still required for the Treaty’s entry into force, and strongly urge all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that his country actively participated in the negotiation of the Treaty and ratified it in 2000.  It has since strictly adhered to its provisions, making a constructive contribution to the work of the Preparatory Committee of the Treaty.  While welcoming ratifications by Cuba and Comoros, he said the festive mood on the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the Treaty was however dampened by the fact that it has not entered into force.  States parties cannot rely on the Treaty, he lamented, urging eight countries listed in Annex 2 to take practical steps.  Rejecting any attempts to obtain strategic advantages by refusing to participate in key international agreements, he warned against the announced development of new systems by a certain alliance.  The verification mechanism is created for specific tasks clearly enshrined in the agreement and should not be used for other purposes.  The Russian Federation intends to adhere to moratoria subject to a similar approach by other nuclear Powers.  A voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests is a temporary, interim measure that cannot replace the legal obligations of States under an international treaty.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said his country was one of the first nuclear weapons States to sign the Test‑Ban Treaty in 1996, and then to ratify it.  In 1998, France irreversibly and transparently dismantled its experimental nuclear power plants in French Polynesia, in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Test‑Ban Treaty Organization.  Technically, France is the only nuclear weapons State to have completed its contribution to the Treaty Organization’s verification system, operating 16 stations on its territory, 8 abroad and one radio nuclear laboratory.  Council resolution 2310 (2016) adopted by the Council five years ago, and co‑sponsored by France, urged all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty.  “This strong and unequivocal call from the Security Council must be heard,” he said, stating the steadfast commitment of France, the European Union and its partners to the Treaty’s early entry into force.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) underlined the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, even prior to its entry into force, in establishing and maintaining a near‑universal norm against nuclear testing.  Voicing the United States support for the Treaty’s goals, he noted that his country continues to observe its “zero‑yield” nuclear testing moratorium and urged all those countries possessing nuclear weapons to adopt a similar policy.  “This norm [against nuclear testing] is essential for sustaining the international non‑proliferation regime and contributing to a more peaceful world,” he stressed, noting that United States plans to take a leading role in the years ahead as the world seeks to achieve universal disarmament.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said the Test‑Ban Treaty and its entry into force are a vital part of the step‑by‑step approach to nuclear disarmament, under the framework of the Nuclear Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  The United Kingdom continues its vocal campaign for the Test‑Ban Treaty’s entry into force, engaging both publicly and privately with the remaining eight Annex 2 States.  Welcoming recent ratifications by Cuba and Comoros, he pointed out that the United Kingdom has not carried out any nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions since 1991.  Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in violation of Council resolutions as well as its six nuclear tests since 2006, he called for that country’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, while urging Pyongyang to resume dialogue with the international community and to sign and ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty.  He also noted that the United Kingdom is one of the largest financial contributors to the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization, providing £4.5 million annually and supporting its international monitoring system.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said that her country has fulfilled its responsibilities under the international monitoring system by operating six monitoring stations on its territory.  She expressed regret over the statement made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in January 2021, in which it declared that it no longer considered itself bound by moratoria on testing.  Citing that country’s publicly stated intentions, and continued efforts, to develop weapons of mass destruction, she urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and to recommit to meaningful negotiations towards that end.  She then underscored the importance of innovative partnerships with civil society, academia and the private sector to achieve the Treaty’s entry into force.  “This cannot be a Government‑only affair,” she said.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) said that, despite the existing moratoria, the Test‑Ban Treaty’s non‑entry into force leaves the door open for further possible nuclear testing in various forms.  For the interests of humans and the environment, all States that have not yet done so, particularly the Annex 2 States, should sign and ratify the Treaty.  Viet Nam is a party to the Test‑Ban Treaty, Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as well as the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok).  Expressing support for the inalienable right of States to develop research, production and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he called for further assistance to developing countries in using data from the international monitoring system for other socioeconomic development applications.

ZHANG JUN (China) described the Test‑Ban Treaty as an important international milestone, especially against the backdrop of increasingly “volatile and challenging dynamics” between States.  States should firmly uphold multilateralism and create a conducive environment for the Treaty’s entry into force, he said, urging all countries to reject cold war mentalities and tackle the root causes that drive nations to test or develop nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons States should honour their commitment to a moratorium on testing, strengthen the multilateral disarmament machinery with the United Nations at its core, make a “no‑first‑use pledge”, and eliminate all double standards in their policies.  States should safeguard the authority, universality and effectiveness of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said, rejecting “utilitarian” approaches to its implementation in which a scant few nuclear‑weapons States make pronouncements while simultaneously helping non-nuclear‑weapons States acquire submarines with nuclear technology.  China has scrupulously upheld its nuclear weapons testing moratorium, he said, vowing that it will not become an obstacle to its entry into force, “come what may” in the shifting international climate.

MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy) outlined some of the outputs of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty, also known as the Article XIV Conference, which took place on 23 and 24 September.  Each ratifying State seized the opportunity presented by the Conference to reaffirm the urgency of the Treaty’s entry into force, highlighting its essential value as a landmark agreement on the path towards global disarmament and non‑proliferation.  Recalling that the Conference’s Final Declaration was adopted by consensus, he said it reiterated States Parties’ overwhelming support for the Test‑Ban Treaty’s universalization and its entry into force and urges the eight remaining Annex 2 States to sign and ratify the Treaty without further delay.  It also calls on all States to refrain from further nuclear test explosions and condemns the six nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since 2006.  Outlining the Final Declaration’s other terms, he said it sets out “concrete and actionable steps” to pursue the Test‑Ban Treaty’s swift entry into force, including through regional initiatives and enhanced engagement with civil society and non‑governmental organizations.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said today’s meeting once again provides a chance for States to highlight the threats posed by nuclear weapons, as well as their tests.  Joining the representative of Italy in spotlighting the positive outcome of the recently convened Article XIV conference, he declared:  “A quarter of a century is far too long for the spectre of nuclear weapons tests to loom.”  A moratorium on nuclear weapons testing should not be seen as a long‑term replacement for a legally binding instrument, he stressed, voicing concern that some countries continue to view the enhancement of nuclear arsenals and the horizontal spread of nuclear weapons technologies among States to be part of their national defence strategies.  Expressing particular concern about the eight remaining Annex 2 States, he nevertheless welcomed recent signings of the Test‑Ban Treaty and urged more countries that have not yet done so to sign and ratify it.

For information media. Not an official record.