The History and Future of the CTBT

Rose Gottemoeller
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Hiroshima University
Hiroshima, Japan
April 12, 2014

As delivered

Ohayo Gozaimasu. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak here, Professor Nishitani. I am glad to see so many young people today and I am very honored to be here in Hiroshima.

It was 31 years ago – a decade before most of you were born – that U.S. President Ronald Reagan traveled to Tokyo. Speaking before the Diet, he pronounced clearly and with conviction that “there can be only one policy for preserving our precious civilization in this modern age. A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” Japan is a global leader on nonproliferation, so this sentiment must certainly resonate with the people here.

President Reagan's belief became the basis for pursuing serious nuclear arms reductions. President Obama took up this mantle and laid out his own long-term vision for the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, coupled with practical steps for achieving this vision. He outlined this vision five years ago in Prague. If you have not read that speech, I recommend that you do. In it, the President laid out a challenging and comprehensive agenda. Today I would like to speak with you about a particular piece of that agenda, which has been in the making for over fifty years: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the United States and the former Soviet Union, the nuclear threat found its way into headline after headline, but there were people across the globe who did not need to read a news article to understand nuclear dangers. There were people who were already all too familiar with them.

From the people who found themselves directly downwind from explosive nuclear testing sites, to the mothers who found radioactive material --strontium 90-- in their children’s milk, the negative health effects of nuclear testing were clear to many. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy called for a complete ban on nuclear explosive testing.

“The conclusion of such a treaty,” he said, “so near and yet so far -- would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963 -- the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security -- it would decrease the prospects of war.”

Fifty-one years later, we are still so near and yet so far from this goal. We were able to achieve part of this objective through the Limited Test Ban Treaty – banning tests in the water, in space and in the atmosphere. Today, the further spread of nuclear weapons remains a threat, and we still lack a total ban on nuclear explosive testing. Here again, we should heed President Kennedy’s words. “Surely this goal,” he said, “is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort, nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.”

Steady progress toward a total ban on nuclear testing continued with the United States and the former Soviet Union limiting the location and size of nuclear explosive testing with the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty and then the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, which came into force in 1992. Meanwhile, the hunt was on for a comprehensive ban. In 1976, a Group of Scientific Experts (GSE) was established by the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to address the issue of effective seismic monitoring of underground nuclear explosions. With the aid of these steps and others, the international community negotiated the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature in 1996. But what exactly is it, you might ask?

What Is the CTBT?

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a legally binding global ban on nuclear explosions of any kind.

Where Would It Ban Testing?

The CTBT would prohibit nuclear explosions everywhere, including underground. The LTBT already bans nuclear explosions on land, in the atmosphere, and under water.

Who Has Signed Up So Far?

183 nations have signed the Treaty, and 162 have ratified it. Japan was actually the 4th state to ratify the Treaty on July 8, 1997.

When Will the CTBT Enter Into Force?

As I said, the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996. It will enter into force when the last remaining “Annex 2” states sign and ratify the Treaty. There are eight Annex 2 States that have yet to ratify the Treaty - China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the United States of America, which have signed the Treaty, and North Korea, India, and Pakistan, which have not signed.

And most importantly:

Why Is the CTBT a Good Thing?

CTBT is a key part of leading nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.

An in-force CTBT will hinder states that do not have nuclear weapons from developing advanced nuclear weapons capabilities. States interested in pursuing or advancing a nuclear weapons program would have to either risk deploying weapons without the confidence that they would work properly, or accept the international condemnation and reprisals that would follow an illegal nuclear test.

  • It will impede nuclear weapon states with established programs from advancing new weapons designs they have never tested.
  • It will also constrain regional arms races. These constraints will be particularly important here in Asia, where states are building up and modernizing nuclear forces.
  • And here is a vital point, an in-force test ban would prevent any further health problems from nuclear explosions.

With the national security benefits of the Treaty in mind, President Obama called for the ratification and entry into force of the CTBT in his 2009 Prague speech.

With most states around the world, the United States has observed a moratorium on nuclear explosive testing since 1992. There are very few exceptions -- only North Korea has tested in this century. Our science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program is ensuring that we do not need to conduct nuclear explosive tests in order to ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the nuclear forces we maintain. This is important for disarmament and nonproliferation, because it provides the United States confidence that we do not need to build more weapons for safety or security purposes. It also helps reassures allies and partners of the credibility of U.S. capabilities so other governments do not feel the need to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The ability to monitor and verify compliance with the CTBT is stronger than it has ever been. The IMS, the heart of the verification regime, was just a concept two decades ago. Today, it is a nearly complete, technically advanced, global network of sensors that can detect nuclear explosions. Japan hosts 11 different monitoring facilities. In addition to its verification role, the IMS has also proven its ability to contribute critical scientific data to benefit civil society. Since the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, the IMS has contributed critical seismic data to the Pacific tsunami warning system. Additionally, after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, we saw how the IMS can contribute critical insight in tracking radioactivity from nuclear reactor accidents. In 2011, Japan made a voluntary contribution of over $700,000 US dollars to further develop the CTBTO’s ability to monitor radioactivity in the atmosphere.

Despite the clear merits of the Treaty, it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers, so we need time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification. Of course, as I mentioned, there are also other States that need to ratify the CTBT and there is no reason for those States to wait on the United States to move ahead. It is clear, however, that to achieve an in-force Treaty; we will need the help of people around the world, including the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all of Japan. Indeed, Japan is a strong advocate of the Treaty and an essential Ally and partner in the fight against nuclear threats.

On March 1, I travelled to the Marshall Islands to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test detonated on Bikini Atoll. The test was more powerful than expected and radioactive fallout contaminated islands downwind. People died, many more suffered health problems, entire communities were displaced from their homes and have yet to return, even today. During my visit to the Marshalls, I had the chance to speak to Mr. Oishi Matashichi, a fisherman aboard the “Lucky Dragon Number Five," a Japanese vessel that was inadvertently in the fallout zone. Mr. Matashichi and I spoke about his experience as a survivor of the Bravo test – a moving conversation that brought home to me the Japanese perspective on the human dimension of nuclear weapons' testing. Meeting with government and community leaders, as well as displaced communities, I told them that it is the United States’ deep understanding of the consequences of nuclear weapons – including the devastating health effects– that has guided and motivated our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate these most hazardous weapons. Entry into force of the CTBT is one essential part of our pragmatic, step by step approach to eliminating nuclear dangers.

I am interested in hearing from all of you and wanted again to say how pleased I am that so many young people are here. President Obama, speaking to a group of young people in Brussels last month, said that “our future will be defined by young people” and it is you “who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow.”

President Obama is right – the world is yours to change and improve. Your generation, born with the skills to control the new technologies that are also changing our world, will be able to choose a path away from past mistakes, past conflicts. Your generation will inherit a world of nuclear arsenals that you did not have a hand in building, but you will have the power to create a world where they can be dismantled.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.