20 years since Clinton announced a true zero-yield CTBT

Vienna, 11 August 2015

“Twenty years ago today, US President Bill Clinton made the official announcement that the United States would pursue the negotiation of a true zero-yield comprehensive test ban. Clinton called the decision an historic milestone in efforts to reduce the nuclear threat and build a safer world.

At the time, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva was in the midst of its third year of negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and this decision was seen as crucial in ensuring that the Treaty would be concluded by 1996, a commitment made at the 1995 NPT Review Conference.

Referring to earlier efforts by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to achieve a CTBT, Clinton stated, “Now as then, such a treaty would greatly strengthen U.S. and global security and create another barrier to nuclear proliferation and nuclear weapons development.”

As we assess the status of the CTBT and identify ways to advance its entry into force, we must remember the decades of efforts that were required to make this Treaty a reality. It is our ultimate responsibility to walk the final mile to ensure that nuclear test explosions are once and for all condemned to the past. Then we will have taken the first concrete step towards a world free of nuclear weapons.”

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo

Background The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, including underground. The Treaty was opened for signature a year later, on 24 September 1996. As of today, it was signed by 183 States, of which 164 have ratified (see interactive map). However, eight States have yet to ratify for entry into force: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. The CTBTO has established a verification regime capable of detecting nuclear explosions anywhere on the planet. It detected the North Korean nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 swiftly and precisely.

President Clinton signing the CTBT the day it opened for signature, 24 September 1996