The Status of Negotiations

Negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT) began in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva in January 1994 following the consensus adoption of a resolution calling for a CTBT in the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.

President Clinton's August 11, 1995 announcement that the United States supports a true zero yield CTBT energized negotiations at the CD. The United Kingdom and France have also declared their support for a true zero yield CTBT that will ban any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. After his Hyde Park summit meeting with President Yeltsin, President Clinton announced on October 23 that Russia had also agreed to seek a zero yield CTBT. Many of the CD's 38 members welcomed these developments, which have set the stage for prompt conclusion of the negotiations.

The formal meetings of the 1995 CD session ended September 22. A new version of the draft CTBT "rolling text," which will be the basis for the final treaty text, was developed by the CD's negotiating Ad-Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban. Negotiators eliminated some bracketed (i.e., disputed) and redundant text and developed new treaty provisions.

In addition to the dramatic progress on scope, the CD made progress in 1995 in elaborating the CTBT's International Monitoring System and in developing a method for funding the international implementing organization.

Negotiators worked informally on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this fall and returned to Geneva for technical work November 27 - December 15, 1995. Among other topics, these efforts focused on finalizing the CTBT's International Monitoring System.

After two weeks of scheduled intersessional negotiations, the CD's 1996 session begins on January 22. The United States seeks to complete the text of the CTBT by April. This will permit the CTBT to be opened for signature by September 1996. All CD members support completion of the CTBT negotiations "as soon as possible and no later than 1996." To meet this objective, the negotiating pace is likely to be intensive.

United States Commitment to a CTBT

In January 1994, President Clinton said that, in his view, a CTBT should be the CD's "top priority." At the conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference in May, 1995, the United States, along with all the other parties to that treaty, agreed to work to complete a CTBT "no later than 1996." In his August 11, 1995 announcement supporting a true zero yield CTBT, President Clinton reaffirmed the United States commitment to do "everything possible to conclude the CTBT negotiations as soon as possible so that a treaty can be signed next year."

ACDA Director John Holum said in an October 17 speech at the United Nations that the NPT Review and Extension Conference "did not lessen, but rather intensified, the United States commitment to a test ban."

United States Moratorium

The United States has not conducted a nuclear weapon test since September of 1992. In January 1995, the President decided to extend the moratorium on United States nuclear tests until a CTBT enters into force, on the assumption that a treaty will be signed before September 30, 1996. In his October 17 speech at the UN, ACDA Director Holum reiterated that the United States is prepared to conclude that it "has already conducted its last nuclear test."

Safety and Reliability of United States Nuclear Weapons

After a thorough review in 1993, the Administration determined that the nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal are safe and reliable. The President determined that the benefits in conducting additional tests to help the United States prepare for a CTBT and provide some additional improvements in safety and reliability, were outweighed by the price we would pay by undercutting our nonproliferation goals.

The United States will continue to carry out a range of programs to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its weapons. In this regard, President Clinton established on August 11, 1995, a new annual reporting and certification requirement that will ensure that our nuclear weapons remain safe and reliable under a CTBT.


To promote our vital national interests in curbing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and secure the strongest possible Treaty, the United States seeks a true zero yield CTBT. This means a CTBT that would ban any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. The United States furthermore believes the Treaty must not prohibit activities required to maintain the safety and reliability of its nuclear stockpile.

Duration and Withdrawal

The United States believes the CTBT should be of indefinite duration. In January 1995, the United States dropped its proposal for a provision permitting a party to withdraw from the Treaty after 10 years without citing its supreme national interests as a basis for withdrawal.

The United States supports a CTBT that will contain the usual clause permitting a state to withdraw from the treaty for reasons of "supreme national interest." The President considers the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to be a supreme national interest of the United States. In his August 11 announcement, the President noted that if the Secretaries of Defense and Energy were to determine that the safety and reliability of a nuclear weapon type considered critical to the United States nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified with a high level of confidence, he would be prepared, in consultations with Congress, to exercise the United States "supreme national interests" right under the CTBT in order to conduct whatever testing might be required. The President said, however, that exercising this right was not a decision he believed that he or any other president would have to make. He noted that the nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal are safe and reliable, and that he was determined that the stockpile stewardship program would ensure they remain so in the absence of nuclear testing.

Entry Into Force

The United States seeks the adherence of the five nuclear-weapon states before the Treaty enters into force. Additionally, it hopes as many other nations as possible will join the Treaty.

Other Remaining Issues

Other remaining issues in the negotiations include: