Guest viewpoint: Ratifying the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Sixth Ministerial Meeting on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. (Creative Commons)

This piece reflects the views of the author, Jean Ramirez, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected].

On April 20th two student organizations, UO Beyond War and Global Zero University of Oregon, held their first panel discussion from their Breaking the Silence Series: The U.S. + Nuclear Warfare. An overlooked topic, but nonetheless an emerging problem we can’t ignore.

Especially when a certain presidential candidate argues “that U.S. allies should build their own nuclear weapons so they no longer have to rely on an impoverished America’s atomic umbrella.”

Not only are there solid counterarguments agains this claim, it also proves that the lack of knowledge about nuclear weapons is concerning. And with upcoming elections, its difficult to understand why there wasn’t a lot of potential voters eager to learn why nuclear weapons is a problem, and what can be done.

Interestingly enough there is something we can do, and it has to do with banning nuclear weapons testing.

On January 6th, the UN Security Council held “urgent consultations to address the serious situation arising from the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]” at 1:30:00 (UTC) the same day. Within 24 hours the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an organization created to promote the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), published an addendum on their 45th session of the Preparatory Commission.

It stated that delegations “[expressed] universal concern about the effect of any such test on international peace and security and [rejected] any and all nuclear explosive tests.” Then on March 2nd the Security Council imposed new sanctions on the DPRK, as well condemning the state for launching a ballistic missile on February 6th.

Politically, condemning the DPRK only legitimizes sanction’s against rogue nuclear states. The problem is this strategy strays away from three keys facts about nuclear weapons testing, which the CTBTO has made public and easily to verify.

  1. There are 13 states that have not signed the CTBT, and 32 states have not yet ratified it.
  2. The CTBT is not an international law because the treaty was signed, but never ratified by all necessary signatories.
  3. Two out of the 8 states whose signature and ratification is needed for the CTBT to become an international law are permanent members of the Security Council.

In the preamble of the CTBT, it stresses “the need for continued systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally” while “recognizing that the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons… constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in all its aspects.”

Without reading the rest of the CTBT, it is clear there is a consensus how testing, developing and improving nuclear weapons is counterproductive to the goal set by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). A treaty where signatory states agreed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. If the same states acted rational, they would sign and ratify the CTBT allowing a verification regime to hold accountable violating states under international law, and strengthening the consensus nuclear weapons proliferation can stopped at the testing stage.

The confounding part of this assumption is that the United States is a key promoter of the NPT and one of the two permanent security Council members who has not yet ratified the CTBT, the other being China. The additional states whose signature and ratification are also needed for the CTBT to become and international law include Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the DPRK

Without these key signatures and ratification, it makes it difficult to understand how the Security Council can condemn the DPRK, while two of their permanent members have not taken the step to end nuclear proliferation at the testing stage. If the ratification is not soon up for a vote, the United States rationale for current and future sanctions against violating states becomes harder to justify.

Not only would the ratification make it clear that nuclear weapons testing is universally condemned, it would also set a clear precedent with a strong unanimous support.

Perhaps nuclear weapons are not in everyone’s agenda, but the Senate failed to ratify the CTBT in 1999. Whether the failure is due to domestic politic its up to debate, but informed voters can influence their state elected officials in Washington. Learning the facts it important, collectively voicing the problem is key.