CTB Treaty Opened for Signature after Approval by United Nations

By Cerniello, Craig | Arms Control Today, September 1996 | Go to article overview

CTB Treaty Opened for Signature after Approval by United Nations


Cerniello, Craig, Arms Control Today


IN A TRULY historic moment in arms control, President Clinton along with representatives of 70 other states-including the four other declared nuclear-weapon states (Britain, China, France and Russia)signed the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty on September 24 at the United Nations in New York. The next day, Israelone of the three nuclear "threshold" states (India, Israel and Pakistan)-signed the treaty. As of September 30, 94 states have signed the treaty. (See box below.)

Just two weeks before the signing ceremony, the UN General Assembly approved by an overwhelming vote of 158-3 a resolution sponsored by Australia and many other states calling upon all countries to sign and become parties to the CTB Treaty "at the earliest possible date." Australia took this initiative when the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) failed to reach consensus on the text of the CTB due to unrelenting Indian opposition. (See ACT, August 1996.)

In explaining the treaty's significance to the General Assembly, Clinton said it "will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons. It will limit the ability of other states to acquire such devices themselves. It points us toward a century in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced and ultimately eliminated."

Now that the CTB has been opened for signature, efforts will focus on the difficult task of bringing the treaty formally into force. Given the opposition to a CTB in the Republican Party platform, the United States may also face a battle in achieving congressional approval of the treaty. The possibility of ratification problems was reinforced when the long-scheduled vote on the Chemical Weapons Convention was postponed because of concern that there was inadequate support to assure passage. If President Clinton is re-elected in November, he is expected to submit the CTB Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent early in 1997.

Australian Resolution

Australia formally submitted its resolution, which had a total of 127 co-sponsors, to the UN General Assembly on September 6. Of the eight states capable of conducting a nuclear test, the United States, Britain, France and Israel were all co-sponsors; China, India, Pakistan and Russia were not.

The Australian resolution adopted the text of the CTB Treaty negotiated in Geneva; requested that the UN secretarygeneral open the treaty for signature at the earliest possible date; called upon all states to sign and become parties to the treaty at the earliest possible date; and requested that the secretary-general report to the General Assembly at its 52nd session on the number of countries that have signed and ratified the treaty.

The General Assembly briefly debated the Australian resolution on September 9, and held a vote the next day. Of the international body's 185 members, 158 states voted for the resolution. …

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