CTBT - The Way Forward
High-level panel discusses
significance and achievements
The CTBT "has acquired a significance well beyond restraining vertical and horizontal nuclear proliferation it has come to be seen as the litmus test of the commitment of the nuclear weapon States to move towards nuclear disarmament." Trevor Findlay, Executive Director of VERTIC (the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Centre), was speaking as a panellist at a discussion on the significance and achievements of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The discussion was convened on 4 April 2000 by the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to mark the third anniversary of the Commission´s establishment in Vienna.
Significant also, Mr. Findlay maintained, was the resonance that a complete ban on nuclear tests in all environments for all time had with ordinary people and its promise to end further damage to the environment caused by nuclear tests.
"An impressive start has been made in establishing the verification system which, even in the absence of entry into force, can verify compliance with a widespread norm, if not a legally binding obligation," Mr. Findlay said. "For the first time ever, compliance with a multilateral arms control agreement will be monitored remotely by a global network of ground- and sea-based sensors, based on four different technologies, linked 24 hours a day, in as near real time as possible, to a central verification headquarters."
The successful detection and location by the verification system´s partially complete seismological network of several sub-kiloton conventional explosions was proof, according to Peter Marshall, Deputy Head of Forensic Seismology at the United Kingdom Atomic Weapons Establishment, that the uncertainty for a potential violator of being able to evade detection will ensure compliance with the Treaty´s global ban on nuclear testing. Once established, the synergy of the verification system, together with the possibility for on-site inspections, will surpass expectations and "prove to be a remarkable contribution to arms control verification."
A spin-off benefit of the Treaty, in the view of Mr. Marshall and Ambassador Olga Pellicer of Mexico, was the fact that the data registered by its verification system were a major potential asset to the international community in such areas as hazard assessment and disaster relief. Ambassador Pellicer said that the verification system contributed "to a much needed ´non nuclear weapons culture´ ? because it links scientists with different backgrounds, technicians with special skills and people of all nationalities in a common purpose".
Cautious optimism was voiced by Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, about the prospects for United States ratification given the overwhelming public support for the Treaty, the solid and growing support from key military and scientific officials, and the fact that leading nuclear weapon scientists regard nuclear weapon test explosions as unnecessary. He considered as positive the recent appointment of a CTBT Task Force, under General John Shalikashvili, to lay the groundwork necessary to convince the Senate to work towards United States ratification of the Treaty. The panellists welcomed the announcement that the United States had fully paid its contribution to the Preparatory Commission´s 2000 budget.
Describing efforts to promote cooperation to facilitate the Treaty´s entry into force as a follow-up to the October 1999 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, over which Japan had presided, Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe of Japan emphasized the importance of recent ratifications, particularly that of Bangladesh, which was the first in the South Asian region.
Speaking as a representative of the country that will chair the forthcoming Sixth NPT Review Conference in New York, Ambassador Mokhtar Reguieg of Algeria said that in hampering the qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, the CTBT was an important instrument of both arms control and non-proliferation. The progress already achieved in implementing the CTBT would give a positive impetus to the Conference and to nuclear disarmament efforts.
In summing up, Ambassador Jaap Ramaker of the Netherlands, who moderated the discussion, reiterated that the CTBT was an "excellent Treaty and an indispensable step towards nuclear disarmament".
The 55 States that have ratified the Treaty are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uzbekistan.