Test Ban News

Preparations Intensify for Conference on CTBT Entry Into Force

      In mid-July 1999, Hungary and Norway ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), bringing the number of NATO states that have ratified to 15 out of the total NATO membership of 19. Ireland, Estonia and Mali have also recently ratified the CTBT, bringing the total number of ratifying states to 43.
      As ratifiers, these states will be able to participate fully in a conference planned for October 6-8, 1999, in Vienna, Austria. There, countries that have ratified the CTBT will decide on steps to speed the day when the Treaty's global prohibition on nuclear testing will have full legal force and its extensive verification mechanisms can be used.
      The Treaty can only enter into force after ratification by 44 specified states -- those that participated in its negotiation and have nuclear power or research reactors. The Treaty's list captured the five nuclear weapon states, as well as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Twenty-one of the 44 have now ratified and several others are expected to ratify by the time the conference convenes. Timely progress on U.S. ratification will play a major role in determining the actions of other key states such as Russia and China.


What Does the Treaty Say?

     According to Article XIV of the CTBT, if it has not entered into force three years after its opening for signature on September 24, 1996, a majority of ratifying states may call for a conference to "examine the extent to which the requirement [for entry into force] has been met and [to] consider and decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty." Similar conferences may be held annually until entry into force.

What Can the Conference Do?

      The U.S. expects that the conference will issue a strong political declaration on the value of the Treaty and will urge states that have not ratified to do so. It may also offer assistance to states that have difficulties in their technical analyses of the Treaty and may 


designate specific ratifying states to work with non-ratifiers to encourage their ratification. The conference cannot amend the treaty to change its entry-into-force provision. We do not expect it to recommend sanctions against states that have not signed or ratified.

Who Can Participate?

      The Treaty provides for full participation by states that have deposited their instruments of ratification and for observer status by signatories. The Treaty is silent about the attendance of non-signatories, but their presence at the conference may help encourage their signature and ratification.

What Are the Latest Developments?

      The ratifying states -- in consultation with interested signatories, including the U.S. -- have been meeting in Vienna to prepare for the conference. They have been developing rules of procedure and considering candidates for conference officers. They have also been consulting 

on the text of a declaration, including measures the participants could take to accelerate ratifications.
     The Administration and CTBT supporters in the Senate are calling for progress on U.S. ratification so that the U.S. can play a leadership role at the conference. In a Rose Garden statement on July 20, 1999, the President underscored the need for prompt action and urged the Senate at a minimum to hold hearings this fall. He followed up with a similar statement on August 9 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
      We are also urging other states to ratify before the conference. Chinese officials have linked their accelerated preparations for ratification to the upcoming conference. In speeches to the 1998 UN General Assembly leaders of India and Pakistan expressed a willingness to adhere to the CTBT and implicitly flagged this fall's conference as a key milestone in their considerations. U.S. progress on ratification is needed to encourage India, Pakistan and other key states whose ratifications are necessary for entry into force.

Produced by the White House Working Group on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. For more information on the CTBT, call (202) 647-6946 or see: