CTBT moves world closer to being free of nuclear weapons, says UN Secretary-General

CTBT moves world closer
to being free of nuclear
weapons, says
UN Secretary-General

PI/2007/11

Convening of the fifth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty in Vienna

In a message to participants in the two-day Conference to promote the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on those States that have not signed or ratified the Treaty to do so as soon as possible. 

 The message was delivered by H.E. Sergio Duarte, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, at the opening of the Conference that gathered representatives of over 100 States. Calling the Treaty a major instrument in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, the Secretary-General said it would move mankind to the larger goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and ensure that 9 October 2006, the date of the announced nuclear by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, would be recorded in history books as the date of the world's last nuclear test ever.

The Treaty opened for signature eleven years ago and, with 177 signatures and 140 ratifications, is close to universality.  Particular attention is being directed at the 44 so-called Annex 2 States whose ratification is a precondition for the Treaty's entry into force.  Only 34 of the 44 have already ratified the Treaty.  The ten remaining States are: China, Colombia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty.

 The fifth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT is jointly presided over by the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Costa Rica, H.E. Dr. Ursula Plassnik and H.E. Bruno Stagno Ugarte.  'This shared Presidency by two CTBT Member States representing two different geographic regions symbolizes the global support for the Treaty', Dr. Plassnik said in her opening remarks.  It testified that the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament were of universal concern and highlighted the necessity for world-wide cooperation in the fight against global threats, she added.

 Saying that encouraging progress has been made, Stagno Ugarte pointed out that 14 States had ratified the CTBT, including the Annex 2 State Vietnam, since the last conference in 2005.  Regarding the remaining ten Annex 2 States whose ratification was needed for entry into force, Stagno Ugarte said that none of the obstacles delaying ratification seemed insurmountable.  'The key to accelerate the process remains the leadership role the United States would be ready to assume', he said.  Stagno Ugarte mentioned the editorial of 4 January 2007 in the Wall Street Journal by the former bipartisan US foreign policy and defence leaders, Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn and said that it augured well for a new dynamic in strategic thinking. This kind of renewed support for the CTBT should give a new sense and hope to the efforts in bringing about the Treaty's early entry into force.

 The build-up of the CTBT verification regime has moved on steadily and with remarkable results, said Tibor Toth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO).  In the two years since the last Conference promoting the Treaty, the number of certified monitoring facilities had increased by 60%.  The verification system also had to endure a performance test when the Democratic People's Republic of Korea claimed on 9 October 2006 that it had conducted a nuclear test.  This test 'constituted the most serious trial to the norm against nuclear testing for many years', Toth said.  The event in the DPRK constituted a validation of the CTBT global verification system, which proved its value to States Signatories.  Toth also stressed that, as regrettable and disquieting as the event had been, it had also underscored the urgency of bringing the Treaty into force and completing the build-up of the CTBT verification system.

 The outgoing Coordinator of efforts to facilitate the entry into force of the Treaty, Ambassador Peter Shannon of Australia, welcomed the joint presidency by Costa Rica and Austria, saying that 'the geographic diversity of this arrangement is a positive reflection of the growing universality of the Treaty'. Referring to the increasing number of States which had signed and ratified the Treaty, Shannon said that this showed the commitment of the overwhelming majority of States to the goals of the CTBT.  The remarkable increase from 125 to 140 ratifications over the past two years emphasized the effectiveness of sustained pressure on States Signatories to ratify the Treaty.

 Jaap Ramaker, Special Representative to promote the CTBT ratification process, said 'the world needs a complete ban on nuclear weapon test explosions.  It needs the CTBT. This Treaty will cap the development of ever more destructive weapons.  It constitutes the last barrier against a nuclear programme turning into a nuclear weapons programme.'  In his capacity as Special Representative, Ramaker had visited most of the Annex 2 non-ratifying countries.  He pointed out their primary concerns: the financial implications and lack of resources; the need to give higher priority to the issue of nuclear non-proliferation; and, on the positive side, a growing interest in the concrete benefits of the verification regime.

 Pointing out the fact that Hungary was amongst the Annex 2 States whose ratification was required for entry into force, H.E. Dr Kinga Goncz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said it was amongst the first to sign the Treaty in September 1996 and ratified it in July 1999.  She stressed the importance of 'exploring and developing the potential civil and scientific applications of the monitoring regime - in a number of areas, such as environment, earth science and technology and disaster alert systems'. 

 H.E. Aristides Fernandez Zucco, Minister of Energy of the Dominican Republic, spoke as the representative of the State that had most recently ratified the CTBT on 4 September 2007, making it the 140th State to do so.  Zucco said that the CTBT was the result of more than 40 years of efforts to establish an international legal instrument for verifying a ban on nuclear testing. 

 H.E. Hitoshi Kimura, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, emphasized that Japan supported the CTBT, which 'underpins the international nuclear non-proliferation regime founded on the NPT, as a practical and concrete measure for realising a nuclear-weapon free world.' Against the backdrop of the proclaimed nuclear test by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in October 2006, Kimura noted the Yongbyon nuclear facility had been shut down recently as one of the actions towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.  In working towards a peaceful resolution of nuclear issues, the maintenance of a moratorium on nuclear testing was imperative.  'As the only nation ever to have suffered nuclear devastation, Japan calls on the international community to ensure that nuclear testing is never carried out by any country ever again.'

 Speaking on behalf of the European Union, H.E. João Gomes Cravinho, Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, said that each new signature and ratification to the CTBT brought the world closer to its common objective of universal adherence to the Treaty and thus to a safer world.  Reflecting the European Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, he said that a multilateral approach provided the best means to counter such threats from which no region or State was immune.  The EU was in a unique position to promote the CTBT since all 27 Member States have signed and ratified the Treaty.

 H.E. Dato' Mohd Arshad M. Hussein, Permanent Representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), expressed his strong concern at the growing resort to unilateralism.  He underlined that multilateralism and multilaterally agreed solutions provided 'the only sustainable method of addressing disarmament and international security issues'.  He reiterated NAM's long-standing and principled position for the total elimination of all nuclear testing.  He also expressed NAM's concern about the decision of one nuclear weapon State's alleged intention to invest in a Reliable Replacement Warhead, thus modernizing its nuclear infrastructure and raising the prospect of returning to underground testing. 

 As host country of this Conference, the representative of Austria, H.E. Johannes Kyrle, Secretary General of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, said that his country bore special responsibility for the successful preparations for the CTBT's entry into force.  He reaffirmed the important position of the CTBT within the United Nations' nuclear non-proliferation regime, especially its close relationship with the NPT and its function as a 'double-lock'.  He quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recent statement saying that 'I see emerging in the world today a zero tolerance of any further test of nuclear explosive devices.  I hope to see the day when this expectation is made legally binding and remain convinced that the CTBT is the way that this goal would be ultimately achieved.'

 Mr. Cristiano Dos Santos, delegate of the Republic of Mozambique, informed the Conference of the advanced stage of the CTBT ratification process, which had already been considered by his country's Cabinet and would be submitted to Parliament during its next session scheduled for October of this year.   The package of international legal instruments would also include the African Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, the Pelindaba Treaty.

The Conference continues its debate at 1000 hrs, on Tuesday, 18 September 2007.

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