USIS Washington File

10 November 1999

Holum Says Senate Dismissal of CTBT a "Detour," not a "Reversal"

(U.S. ratification "will happen over time," says arms control adviser)
By Susan Ellis
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) eventually will
be ratified by the United States, John Holum, the State Department's
senior adviser for arms control and international security, told
foreign news media representatives November 9. He said the recent
setback of the vote in the Senate against the CTBT was "a detour
rather than a reversal on the road to ratification of the test ban

"I think that (ratification) will happen over time...It was a vote
scheduled on short notice with not sufficient time to evaluate the
treaty," Holum said, adding that a number of senators, including
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner "who voted
against the treaty, nonetheless want to start the process and have
encouraged a process of sharing information, working out possible
conditions and understandings that would allow the treaty to go

In any case, Holum stressed, "The United States is not testing nuclear
weapons and has no plans to."

Asked what changes might be made to the treaty to make it more
acceptable to the Senate, Holum said, "It's unlikely that there will
be renegotiation of the treaty."

He added that ratification is unlikely "during the course of the next
year" but that something unexpected could arise to change that. "If
something very good internationally were to happen, I think perhaps
the outlook would change. If we could get 43 other ratifications, for
example, so that the United States was the only country left -- I
think that would have some influence on the Senate."

Holum said more dialogue between the administration and the Senate
could also possibly influence that body to take up the treaty again.
It's a "hard task," he admitted. "We have a lot of consultations to
do. And what I'm arguing for is that ultimately, this treaty will be
ratified (by the United States). Whether next year...the year after
that, or even later."

The Clinton administration, he said, wants to make sure it is ready if
the opportunity presents itself, "and if it can't be ratified while
President Clinton is still in office, (be able to) hand on to the next
administration a favorable opportunity to move ahead."

Asked about concerns over the administration's deliberations on the
development of a National Missile Defense (NMD) program, which would
entail amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Holum
said, "It is entirely possible to maintain the basic security value,
the stability value, of the ABM Treaty while updating it to account
for changed realities." He added such changes would not be disruptive
to arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

"We are proposing a very modest change in the ABM Treaty that would
allow for a very limited first-stage defense against forces that we
see emerging, particularly in the nearer term, in North Korea: a
capability to strike the United States," he said.

Holum said the United States' "front line of defense" in dealing with
such threats is to work directly with "North Korea, as well as with
Russia and China and other suppliers of related technology."

He said there is some basis for questioning whether traditional ideas
of deterrence would work in the case of a country like North Korea. So
the answer would be the NMD program directed toward a limited attack.
He said updating the ABM Treaty "strengthens the arms control regime
rather than weakens it, because it shows that it can adapt to a
changed international environment."

The timing of the presidential decision on NMD really depends "on when
the secretary of defense tells the president that ...(the Defense
Department is) ready for a decision," he said. This is driven by the
pace of development of the program, he said, and by next summer when
President Clinton is expected to make his decision "it will have had
three flight tests."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)