'More Work' Needed to Amend Partial Test-Ban Treaty

UN Chronicle, June 1991 | Go to article overview

'More Work' Needed to Amend Partial Test-Ban Treaty


The two-week Amendment Conference of the States Parties to the 1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under Water--known as the partial test-ban Treaty--decided on 18 January that further work was needed before a proposed amendment converting it into a comprehensive test-ban Treaty could be adopted.

The Treaty prohibits any nuclear explosions--for weapon testing or any other purpose--in the atmosphere or beyond its limits, including outer space; or under water, including territorial waters or high seas; or in any other environment if such explosions cause radioactive debris. It does not cover underground tests.

It was reported (PTBT/CONF/5) that all five nuclear-weapon States conduct nuclear tests as part of their weapons programmes. Between 1963 and 1989, there were 1,271 internationally recorded tests.

By a vote of 74 in favour to 2 against (United Kingdom, United States), with 19 abstentions, the Conference called for its President, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, to conduct further consultations on the Treaty and resume the work of the conference at "an appropriate time".

The "complex and complicated nature of certain aspects of a comprehensive test-ban treaty, especially those with regard to verification of compliance and possible sanctions against non-compliance", was acknowledged in the Conference's decision.

In his closing statement, Mr. Alatas said the Amendment Conference had contributed to advancing a comprehensive test ban by bringing together for the first time the parties to the Treaty to address obstacles to an agreement. There was, he said, a firm and continuing commitment to achieving a comprehensive test ban.

Amendment urged

since 1985

The Treaty, signed on 5 August 1963 by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States--the Depositary Governments--entered into force on 10 October that same year. As of 1 November 1990, there were 117 parties to it. Two nuclear-weapon States--China and France--are among those that have acceded to it.

Amendment of the Treaty was formally proposed on 5 August 1988--the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Treaty's signing in Moscow--by Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Yugoslavia, which since 1985 had urged the action through the sponsorship of General Assembly resolutions.

The amendment would add an additional article, providing for two protocols to be annexed to the Treaty. …

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