Statement by Australia


Mr President,

The international community has walked a long road in its efforts to end nuclear testing for all time. This endeavour began not long after the Trinity detonation in the deserts of New Mexico on 16 July 1945. Since then there have been more than 2000 nuclear tests.

As early as 1954, Prime Minister Nehru of India proposed an agreement to suspend nuclear weapons testing worldwide. Two years later, the then Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin called for a permanent halt to nuclear testing. And following a conference in Geneva in 1958, there was a one year moratorium by the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain on the testing of nuclear weapons.

The geo-politics of the Cold War and a lack of trust in capabilities to monitor and verify compliance became a major obstacle to any enduring agreement on nuclear testing, but some success was achieved eventually in 1963, when the partial test ban treaty entered into force and prohibited testing in the atmosphere, outer space and under water - but not underground. Then, eleven years on, the threshold test ban treaty was concluded capping the size of underground tests.

Only when the CTBT was concluded however - more than twenty years later - were all explosive tests in all environments finally banned.

My own country played a not insignificant role in getting to this point - as one of the core group in promoting successive resolutions calling for a CTBT in the General Assembly; through our work over the years in the Conference on Disarmament; and, finally, in leading the exercise that ultimately led to the tabling of the enabling resolution in New York.

May I recall that the Conference on Disarmament had begun negotiations on the Treaty in January 1994. Two and a half years later a final draft text was ready. But, with consensus withheld, deadlock descended on the negotiators in Geneva. Those were the circumstances which led Australia in the northern autumn of 1996 to take the Treaty directly on to the floor of the General Assembly, where it was adopted by an overwhelming majority.

Thus, Sir, was brought an end to one of the most protracted negotiations in the history of arms control.

Having come this far, we now need to take the next step - to see the Treaty enter into force. We are making good progress towards that goal. With its 154 states signatories, the CTBT is already rapidly approaching the status of a universal treaty. Fifty one States, including twenty six of the 44 required for entry into force, have also ratified the treaty.

Ratification by all the Nuclear Weapon States is an urgent priority, not just because they are among the 44, but because this will set a powerful example that others will follow. We therefore warmly welcome the ratification of the Treaty last year by France and the United Kingdom. We also take note that the United States Senate is embarking on its consideration of ratification of the CTBT. We join the international community in urging bipartisan support in the United States for ratification. We hope that this conference will serve as a timely reminder to the American people, and their parliamentary representatives, of the importance of the CTBT to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and to the security interests of all countries. We note also that the Governments of China and the Russian Federation have recommitted themselves to ratification of the CTBT and we urge them to do so as soon as possible.

India and Pakistan are also among the 44 states whose ratification is needed for the Treaty to enter into force. Australia has consistently called on both those countries not to conduct any further nuclear tests and to adhere to the CTBT as soon as possible. There are, of course, other countries which have failed to sign or have not yet deposited their instruments of ratification, some of which are of particular concern in terms of their nuclear proliferation risk. Australia also urges all these countries to sign and ratify the CTBT quickly so that the Treaty can be implemented without further delay.

Australia draws encouragement from the progress made by the CTBT's Preparatory Commission to establish the International Monitoring System as a key component of the Treaty's verification machinery. This global monitoring system represents a large investment by the international community. When completed it will consist of 170 seismological, 60 infrasound, 11 hydroacoustic and 80 radionuclide stations - supported by 16 radionuclide laboratories. A global satellite communications system and an international data centre in Vienna will complete the network. Given our size, and geographic location, Australia will host 21 of these monitoring stations and laboratories. Australia has continued to be a strong advocate for the Treaty within the Asia-Pacific region and is ready provide practical and technical assistance at the appropriate stage in the development of the IMS.

This system requires a large capital investment and will generate significant annual running costs. But without adequate and rigorous verification measures the CTBT would be a much weaker Treaty, a much weaker guardian against further nuclear testing. We must now honour the responsibility that we willingly shouldered three years ago in adopting the treaty, and to ensure that the international monitoring and verification regime is operational and fully effective by the time of entry into force.

To conclude, Mr President, the project on which the international community first embarked nearly one half century ago is now, at this dawn of another century, finally in sight of attainment. We are optimistic, but we do not underestimate the obstacles. Because of that, we must do all we can to encourage the ratification process, including through a further review to be conducted at a second entry into force conference, perhaps early in 2001.