CD Nears Deadline on CTBT; Entry into Force Still Unresolved

Article excerpt

WITH ONLY WEEKS remaining before the June 28 close of the Conference on Disarmament's (CD) second session of 1996the CD's self-imposed deadline for completing a comprehensive test ban (CTB) treaty in time for a signing ceremony in September-the chairman of the conference's test ban committee presented a draft treaty completely free of "brackets" denoting disputed language. The 88-page "chairman's text," offered May 28 by Ambassador Jaap Ramaker of The Netherlands, is intended to replace the heavily bracketed "rolling text."

As of mid-June, it appears that the CD's 37 member-states have informally accepted the draft treaty as the basis for the endgame negotiations in Geneva. On balance, Ramaker's text offers widely acceptable solutions to the critical outstanding issues facing the CD, which began its second session on May 13. These issues include scope; verification, especially regarding on-site inspections and the role of the International Data Center; the treaty's preamble; and the composition of the Executive Council. However, the proposed procedure for the treaty's entry into force remains highly controversial.

Ramaker's effort to bring the CTB negotiations to a close received a major boost June 6 when China offered to "temporarily" abandon its long-held call for a treaty provision allowing for peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs), an option not included in the chairman's text. China has indicated, however, that it expects the PNE issue to be revisited in a treaty review conference expected 10 years after entry into force. If Beijing's proposal is accepted by the CD delegations, the core issue of the treaty's scope will be resolved.

Two days after the Chinese announcement, however, Beijing underscored its determination to complete its current testing program before signing a CTB treaty by conducting its 44th nuclear test at the Lop Nor test facility. (See p. 30.)

Australian 'Scope' Accepted

As anticipated, Ramaker's draft incorporates the Australian scope language, which would prohibit "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." This language has been officially endorsed by the United States, Britain, France and, most recently, Russia. Russia's CD ambassador, Grigori Berdennikov, reaffirmed Moscow's commitment to this scope language during the May 13 plenary session.

In a June 6 speech to the CD, Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang announced that "in order to facilitate the conclusion of the treaty within the time-frame as planned, the Chinese delegation is now ready to go along with a temporary ban on PNEs. Namely, China can agree to a treaty provision that the possibility of permitting the conduct of PNEs shall be considered by the review conference of States Parties." If the CD accepts this proposal, Sha said Beijing "will be in a position to favorably consider" the Australian scope language.

Verification Compromise

The chairman's draft also offers balanced solutions to the issue of the treaty's verification regime, especially concerning on-site inspections and the role of the International Data Center (IDC). CD delegates have pointedly debated whether information obtained from national technical means (NTM) of verification, such as satellites, may provide the basis for a request for an on-site inspection, or whether requests for such inspections must be based on data collected by the treaty's International Monitoring System (IMS).

Ramaker's text proposes that a request for an on-site inspection "shall be based on information collected by the International Monitoring System, on any relevant technical information obtained by national technical means of verification in a manner consistent with generally recognized principles of international law, or on a combination thereof." Under Ramaker's formula, the Executive Council will make a decision on the inspection request "no later than 72 hours" after it has been received from the requesting state-party. …