Statement by the United States of America


Date: 7 October 1999

Delivered by: Ambassador John B. Ritch III, Permanent Representative to the CTBTO PrepCom

Mr. President, the United States has welcomed your election to preside over this important conference. Your presidency reminds us of Japan's long and principled support for an end to all nuclear explosions.

At the outset, I offer tribute to a new colleague here in Vienna, my Dutch counterpart Jaap Ramaker, who holds a place of distinction among the veterans and heroes of the CTBT cause. Three years ago, in the critical phase of Treaty negotiation, Ambassador Ramaker served in Geneva as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Testing. He led the Conference on Disarmament along a complex path to final agreement on a Treaty text. Without his creative efforts and diplomatic skill, we here today might not have the luxury of worrying over the question of entry-into-force.

President Kennedy once said that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. He was referring to the human tendency to take credit but not blame. My government believes that the CTBT is, and will remain, a success. We will be pleased to remember Ambassador Ramaker as one of its fathers.

We have convened in Vienna to discuss what steps can be taken to carry us collectively across the threshold of generalized Treaty ratification. But let us take stock also of our achievement thus far.

When President Clinton signed the CTBT three years ago - the first world leader to do so - that signature culminated years of effort by ourselves and many others. As President Clinton said at that moment, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was truly the "longest-sought, hardest-fought" prize in arms control history. We are proud that the United States played a role of leadership in the quest for that prize.

Many treaties are about establishing institutions and laying down rules-of-the road for the pursuit of common goals. This Treaty is about not doing one specific thing of enormous consequence: the conduct of a nuclear explosion of any magnitude. Thus, more than most treaties, this Treaty is concerned with verification.

To design a system of global verification was a sweeping challenge. For years, American experts form several scientific disciplines led a multinational effort devoted to developing verification concepts and drafting Treaty provisions that would put those concepts into action. In the three years since the Treaty was opened for signature, we have continued our research aimed at upgrading - and making available for CTBT verification - the sophisticated monitoring technologies on which confidence in the Treaty will depend.

A key issue, prior to verification, was precisely what kind of nuclear explosions would be banned. Here too we sought to provide leadership. During the Treaty's negotiations, the United States made a key policy choice - deciding to advocate a Treaty banning all nuclear explosions, even at tiny levels of nuclear yield. That "zero-yield" decision, in which the four other nuclear weapons states joined, led the way to a final Treaty text that prohibits all nuclear-weapon test explosions and any other nuclear explosion, however small. This ban applies to any environment, without exception.

The result of these efforts was a Treaty full in scope - banning all nuclear explosions of any kind, forever - backed by a robust plan for verification. That achievement has led us to the issue before this Conference: of obtaining the necessary ratifications to attain entry-into-force.

I would prefer today to represent and American Administration that had not only signed the CTBT but also ratified it. That goal has eluded us thus far, but not for want of effort. CTBT ratification is, and will remain, a preeminent foreign policy and security priority of the Clinton Administration. The President, Secretary of State Albright, and the entire Administration are taking every conceivable step to win Senate approval. As soon as possible, the United States aims to join some fifty nations which have ratified already.

As the world's media have told you, the Clinton Administration is now intensifying its effort to gain Senate approval for American ratification. This week has seen much discussion of the Treaty's handling and possible fate in our Senate. Indeed, in recent hours, the Treaty's future has become what we, in the American vernacular, call a political football.

That is unfortunate, for the Administration has hoped to keep the CTBT out of our domestic partisan scrimmage. That remains the Administration's policy. As a matter of U.S. national security, and as a contribution to international peace and stability, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty stands on its own considerable merits. From a purely American perspective, the Treaty's worldwide system of sensors and on-site inspection mechanisms constitute a potent supplement to our own national technical means to detect nuclear tests. We are disappointed that this fact has not yet gained persuasive prominence in our national Treaty debate.

As this struggle goes on in Washington, my government draws confidence from the Treaty's supreme popularity among an American citizenry that is unlikely to view with favour any sustained effort to impede its entry-into-force. I cannot predict for you the result of current machinations over a Treaty vote in the U.S. Senate. What I can tell you is that even if the current rush of activity fails to produce immediately the necessary two-thirds' support, that will not be the end of it. It will not be the end of it in terms of parliamentary procedure - for even a negative vote would not preclude a subsequent and affirmative Senate decision. It will not be the end of it in terms of political will - for this cause will endure, and the fight will go on.

I remind my colleagues that all of my government's actions for the past three years have derived from an abiding confidence that entry-into-force will occur in good time. As a Treaty signatory, we have remained committed to forgoing any nuclear explosions - and trust that others will continue to adhere to that policy as well. In Vienna, we have been energetic in supporting - and funding - the PrepCom budgets needed for rapid deployment of the Treaty's international monitoring system. We have done so precisely because we want that verification regime fully operational when the Treaty takes effect.

Meanwhile, we have acted in cognizance that entry-into-force will depend critically on the policies of India and Pakistan. My government has engaged with each country in hope of encouraging conditions conducive to their early participation in this Treaty. We were gratified when the prime ministers of both nations made commitments to join the Treaty regime and, more recently, when those countries affirmed that they would conduct no further tests. We welcomed these statements and trust that once India completes the process of forming a new government, both states will sign the Treaty and ratify.

All of us here are keenly aware of the special significance of the next few months, as our clocks and computers tick toward a new millennium. Regrettably, it is not foreseeable that this Treaty will have entered into force when the year 2000 arrives. But we here should resolve that one of diplomacy's first achievements in the new millennium will be the full codification of this Treaty's pledge to cease forever the conduct of nuclear explosions.

This millennium has seen a great saga of human progress and human folly. The technology of nuclear power holds limitless possibilities for both. The future of this Treaty - which is designed to point us away from nuclear folly - will be a test of our collective maturity. Bringing the CTBT into force will be integral to a broader effort to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, and thereby to affirm Mankind's determination to shape a civilization more enlightened than can be found in this millennium's annals of human carnage.

In closing, I recall Winston Churchill and his fond, lifelong analysis of my nations' strengths and foibles. During this century's darkest hours, he and Franklin Roosevelt formed a friendship that deepened his understanding of the American character. Later, Churchill summarized us, famously, by observing that we Americans are a people who will inevitably do the right thing - but only after exploring every available alternative.

Ladies and gentlemen, my nation may now be engaged in just such an exploration. But for those concerned as to whether we will eventually do the right thing, I offer these grounds for reassurance:

First, even as the debated rages in Washington, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty enjoys solid and overwhelming public supports among the American people;

Second, notwithstanding any political setbacks that may occur on the road to ratification, you may be certain that those in my country who champion the Treaty will continue, unfazed and without relent, to push the cause of ratification towards eventual victory.