The Ottawa Citizen
September 23, 1997

Clinton seeks global test ban on nuclear arms


Citing the need to build "a new strategy of security" for the 21st century, U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday asked the Senate to ratify a treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear-weapons tests.

Calling the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control," Mr. Clinton said the ban would apply needed brakes to the global arms race.

"It will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons," Mr. Clinton said, and "it will limit the possibilities for other states to acquire such devices."

Mr. Clinton announced his intention to seek Senate ratification of the treaty in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, the forum's major annual business meeting.

A year ago, the General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Since then, the United States and 145 other nations have signed onto the accord.

The U.S. Senate and the relevant legislative body of at least 43 other countries must ratify the treaty before it may take effect, a process that could take another two years.

Senate passage is not assured, and Mr. Clinton's short-term objective is to begin lobbying this fall for ratification sometime next year.

"Our goal for this is to get the hearings started," said Bob Bell, a senior arms-control adviser to the Clinton administration.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., has expressed reservations about the treaty, but Mr. Bell said, "We intend to win this vote, and failure is not an option."

Developing nuclear weapons requires periodic test explosions, often performed deep underground.

Such explosions can frequently be detected by seismic gear used to monitor earthquakes. Banning such tests altogether would make developing or improving nuclear weapons difficult but would not, White House officials contend, undermine U.S. nuclear capability.

Opponents of the treaty argue that U.S. weapons development could be impeded by the ban, while rogue states could find ways to circumvent the treaty.

Mr. Clinton said, however, that limiting nuclear testing is a critical element in a larger effort to deny nuclear technology to outlaw states and terrorist groups that pose a mounting menace to global peace and security.

"We're all vulnerable to the reckless acts of rogue states and to an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and international criminals," Clinton said. "These 21st century predators feed on the very free flow of information and ideas and people we cherish. ... We must face them together, because no one can defeat them alone."

The rise of such groups has given new urgency, Clinton said, to efforts to "eliminate" weapons of mass destruction.

"We cannot allow them to fall, or to remain, in the wrong hands," said Clinton.