Project News

Looking Ahead in 2016

In 2009, the Arms Control Association launched this project to help disseminate information, ideas, and analysis about the “longest-sought, hardest-fought prize” in arms control—the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—and the steps to bring it into force.

Since then, we’ve seen progress in many areas, including: ratification of the treaty by key states; preparations by key states, including the United States, to bring the treaty to a vote on ratification; and continued progress by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to monitor and verify compliance.

North Korea's Fourth Nuclear Test: A Wake Up Call

On Jan. 6, North Korea conducted its fourth underground nuclear weapons test explosion. The government in Pyongyang claims it conducted a successful test that “scientifically verified the power” of a small hydrogen bomb. The statement claims that the test signifies a “higher stage” of development of North Korea’s nuclear force.

Initial readings from seismic stations in the region, however, strongly suggest the yield of the blast was slightly smaller than the February 2013 nuclear test. According to the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the “initial location estimate” of the seismic activity shows that the event took place in the area of North Korea’s nuclear test site, Punggye-ri, which is located in the northeast of the country. The test has been universally condemned as a threat to international peace and security and a violation of the global taboo against nuclear testing.

Blasts from the Past

This past October, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited several states where the United States conducted some of the 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosion before the end of nuclear weapons testing in September 1992.

Her mission: to speak about the enduring value of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—which the United States was the first to sign but is still among the last few that has not yet ratified.

Undersecretary Gottemoeller’s tour did not begin and end in Nevada, where the United States conducted 921 nuclear test explosions, including 100 above-ground tests, beginning in 1951, and ending with the last U.S. nuclear test in September 1992.

Instead, Gottemoeller’s trip included stops in Alaska and Colorado—

Japanese Prime Minister and Kazakh President Sign Joint Statement

On Oct. 27, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed and adopted a joint statement in support of the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Japan and Kazakhstan were selected to be the Co-Chairs of the 2015 Article XIV Conference on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT and to lead the international efforts to implement the CTBT for the following two years.

A PDF of the full statement is available here, in Japanese, English, and Russian.

The press statement by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is available here.

Secretary Kerry Determined to "Reopen and Re-Energize" CTBT Debate

Secretary of State John Kerry refocused attention on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its value to U.S. security with remarks about the treaty at an Oct. 21 event. He said that "in the months to come, we're going to reopen and re-energize the conversation about the treaty on Capitol Hill and throughout our nation."

He delivered his remarks at an event hosted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton's 1995 declaration to pursue a zero-yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The event also featured a range of speakers from the NNSA, the Defense Department, the directors of all three major nuclear national laboratories, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Speakers focused on the successes of the Stockpile Stewardship Program over the past 20 years. Secretary Moniz, NNSA Administrator Lt. General Frank Klotz (ret.), and all three current lab directors noted that the scientists now know more about nuclear weapons through the Stockpile Stewardship Program than they did during the era of nuclear explosive testing. Secretary Kerry closed the event with a reminder that "it's thanks to [Department of Energy] and its laboratories that we have answers to every question and a much stronger case to make than we’ve ever had before."

Secretary of State John Kerry's full remarks are posted below and available online here.

States Gather to Assess Effort to Bring CTBT Into Force: "Business as Usual" Will Not Do

In 1996, during the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) negotiations, some states insisted on a complex formula for entry into force. Article XIV of the treaty requires that forty-four specific states with nuclear reactors on their soil, listed in Annex II of the treaty, must ratify to trigger full implementation.

In response, other states insisted on a provision that allows for a conference of state parties every two years to exhort holdout states to sign, ratify, and develop a diplomatic strategy to accelerate entry into force.

On September 29, the 9th Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force was held at the United Nations in New York. The UN Secretary General and representatives from key states parties met and spoke in support of the treaty and its entry into force. Eight states listed in Annex II must still ratify, or sign and ratify, for entry into force: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida began the conference with strong statements discussing their goals to take a more aggressive approach over the next two years of their co-presidencies in efforts to bring the CTBT into force. Idrissov warned delegates he would be aggressive or even “undiplomatic,” in his attempts to push for a legally binding nuclear test ban, noting that as states that have suffered from nuclear detonations, “Japan and Kazakhstan have the moral right to be aggressive.” 

Group of Eminent Persons Calls for Fortified Multilateral Effort for the CTBT

Today, August 29, is the UN’s International Day Against Nuclear Tests, a day meant to encourage governments, academic institutions, and the general public to advocate for the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests.

Ahead of this important remembrance day, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) hosted the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) in Hiroshima on August 24 and 25, where the members of GEM adopted the Hiroshima Declaration.

GEM members, a group of former and current high level government officials and internationally recognized experts and academics, were brought together by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo in 2013 to promote the CTBT’s entry into force. Members of GEM had previously met in Stockholm in April 2014, and in Seoul in June 2015.

Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) Meets in Seoul June 25-26

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) reported that the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) met in Seoul on June 25 and 26 to “rally support for the for the Treaty’s entry into force and to highlight the threat posed by nuclear weapons testing.”

The Group of Eminent Persons was established on September 26, 2013, and its members include current and former foreign ministers, prime ministers, defense ministers, and diplomatic leaders from all over the world. As previously reported by the Project for the CTBT, the GEM met in Stockholm on April 10-11, 2014.

The South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se opened the meeting by discussing how “it is crucial to prioritize the entry into force of the CTBT.” Byung-se also indicated that South Korea would host a “special high-level meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the CTBT in 2016,” to promote entry into force of the CTBT.