The United Nations today spoke up for an early entry into force a global treaty that bans nuclear explosions on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground, with a senior official describing the treaty as a “low-hanging fruit.”
“I urge Member States to do everything possible to facilitate a breakthrough,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a General Assembly meeting to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests in a message read on his behalf by the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Kim Won-soo.
“We welcome any and all efforts to bring about a complete testing ban,” said Mr. Ban in the message.
To date, 183 countries have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and 164 have ratified it. For the treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the so-called Annex 2 States. Of these, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States, have yet to ratify it.
In the message, the Secretary-General urged immediate action by the eight remaining Annex II countries.
“Any one of them can and should be the first to ratify,” he said. “That will encourage others to follow suit and generate a cascade of benefits for the broader disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.”
Many thousands of nuclear weapons remain in our world today and the proliferation of all kinds of weapons remains one of the biggest threats to global peace and security
He also called for action by the more than twenty non-Annex II States that have yet to sign or ratify the treaty.
According to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out between 1945 and 1996, when the CTBT opened for signature: by the United States (1000+), the Soviet Union (700+), France (200+), the United Kingdom and China (45 each). Three countries have broken the de facto moratorium and tested nuclear weapons since 1996: India and Pakistan in 1998, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016.
Today’s event was held to mark International Day against Nuclear Tests, which has been observed annually on 29 August, following the declaration of that day in a resolution unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2009.
The resolution called for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” The resolution’s adoption also commemorated the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan in 1991.
CTBT ‘low-hanging fruit’
Also addressing the event was the CTBTO Executive Secretary, Lassina Zerbo, who said the treaty is a “low hanging fruit” and a vital step to achieve the world free of nuclear weapons. But a world free of nuclear tests needs to come first.
The 20th anniversary of the CTBT is an occasion to celebrate what has been achieved, but more importantly, it must be a time for reflection and an opportunity to cast light on the need for the treaty to enter into force, he said.
At the outset of the meeting, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft said that the CTBT must also be seen as an important tool in global endeavour to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. He also noted that moratoriums on nuclear testing have had a positive impact on the international security environment.
“Tests conducted by DPRK, the only violator in this century, were strongly condemned by the international community and I join in that condemnation,” he said.
Recalling the testimony of a survivor of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, Mr. Lykketoft stressed the need for continued systematic and sustained efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally and strive for their total elimination.
“Many thousands of nuclear weapons remain in our world today and the proliferation of all kinds of weapons remains one of the biggest threats to global peace and security,” he said.