Test Ban Treaty stalled at 11-nation roadblock

NEW YORK – A three-day UN meeting on bringing the nuclear test ban treaty into force ended with a plea for ratification of the pact by 11 key holdouts, including the United States, China, Israel and Iran. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been ratified by 125 countries, but nine years after its initial adoption the prospects remain doubtful.

Ratification by 11 more countries is required before the treaty takes effect, and six of them boycotted the event – the United States, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Vietnam and Iran.

In a final declaration, the participants called an end to any nuclear blasts for military or civilian purposes “an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation." They praised the significant progress made in signing and ratifying the treaty, but acknowledged that it can’t come into force unless it is ratified by the 44 states that had nuclear research or power facilities when it was initially signed in 1996. Only 33 of them have done so.

The United States, the world’s leading nuclear power, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Iran, Israel and Vietnam are among the 11 key countries that haven’t ratified the treaty. Diplomats fear that unless the United States and China come into the fold, the treaty may collapse. North Korea, India and Pakistan also haven’t signed it, and both India and Pakistan have carried out nuclear tests since 1996. North Korea has threatened to do so.

UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuyasu Abe admitted that there is no expectation that Washington will ratify the treat anytime soon. Still, the declaration calls on “all states which have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the treaty without delay." UN chief Kofi Annan made the same pitch at the conference opening.

Another emphasis was the importance of building up an effective, global verification regime to ensure compliance if or when the treaty does come into force. The declaration notes, “in addition to its essential function, the CTBT verification system currently being built would be capable of bringing scientific and civil benefits, including for tsunami warning systems and possibly other disaster alert systems."