Issue No. 24, March 1998
Remarks by ACDA Director: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
US-China Non-Proliferation Policies
Prepared statement by John Holum, Director of the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and Acting Under Secretary of
State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, to the
Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security,
Proliferation and Federal Services, 18 March 1998
"I am pleased to join you to discuss the national security
benefits of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). ...
Your first hearing last October helped focus on the issues. I trust
this hearing will further the process of rendering Senate advice
As you know, the President has called on the Senate to provide
its advice and consent this year. As soon as the Senate has
approved NATO expansion, it should act expeditiously to consider
and approve the CTBT. These agreements, individually and together,
will ensure that the next century brings us a safer and more secure
world. But continued US leadership is required. Just as the United
States led the successful effort to negotiate the CTBT among the 61
members of the Conference on Disarmament and was the first State to
sign the Treaty, we should be among the initial States to ratify it
as well. The CTBT overwhelmingly serves our national interest. Let
me describe how it does so.
First, by constraining the development of more advanced nuclear
weapons by the declared nuclear powers, the CTBT essentially
eliminates the possibility of a renewed arms competition such as
characterized the Cold War. Without the ability to conduct nuclear
explosive tests, none of the weapon States will be able to develop,
with high confidence, new, more advanced weapons. For prudent
military planners, this means that advanced new types of nuclear
weapons will be precluded.
With all five declared nuclear-weapon States effectively frozen
at current levels of weapons development, a 50-year spiral of
escalation will be ended. The United States is currently in a
position to reap maximum benefits from such a freeze. ... We have
no plans and no military requirements to test. All the more reason,
then, to hold others to the same standard we already observe.
The CTBT and the strategic nuclear arms reduction process are
mutually reinforcing. The test ban provides confidence that neither
side is making significant qualitative improvements in its arsenal,
thus fostering a stable environment for further reductions. The
CTBT will not eliminate a single nuclear weapon. But it will
enhance the START process and help us further reduce the roles and
risks of nuclear weapons.
Second, the CTBT also is a non-proliferation Treaty. It will
erect a further barrier to the development of nuclear weapons by
States hostile to our interests, and others. Even if a
non-nuclear-weapon State were able to assemble sufficient nuclear
material to produce a simple fission weapon, the CTBT would force
it to place confidence in an untested design (which military
leaders might find unacceptable), and it would constrain the
development of nuclear weapons beyond simple fission designs.
Without access to testing data, a would-be proliferator cannot
develop with any degree of confidence a compact boosted weapon.
Design of a two-stage thermonuclear weapon is even more
complicated, and confident development even more dependent on test
Some observers point out that the bomb used in Hiroshima was
never tested. True enough, but we had to dig a hole under a B-29 to
load it aboard. It would be a challenging task for an emerging
nuclear-weapon State, likely requiring nuclear explosive tests, to
design nuclear weapons in the sizes, shapes and weights most
dangerous to us - compact weapons deliverable in long-range
airplanes and missiles, or very small, low-yield, nuclear weapons
to be used as terrorist devices or in regional conflicts.
Third...the Treaty will strengthen international
non-proliferation standards and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty regime, and give the US a stronger hand to lead the global
The nuclear-weapon States' commitment to conclude a CTBT in 1996
was instrumental in achieving the indefinite and unconditional
extension of the NPT in 1995. ...
Largely due to US initiatives, agreement on the CTBT text was
reached on schedule, and the Treaty has now been signed by 150
countries, including the five nuclear-weapon States. The next step
is ratification by the US and the other nuclear-weapon States, and
concerted efforts to bring the Treaty into force.
Ratification is also critical to our ability to effectively
enforce the NPT regime, which is no easy task. The NPT, now with
nearly universal membership at 185 States, has established a global
norm of non-proliferation which discourages most States from even
considering nuclear weapon programs. ... However, as recent history
demonstrates, not all States feel bound by norms or Treaty
obligations. Even States that appear to be complying with the legal
obligations of the NPT may go quite far in pursuit of nuclear
weapon capabilities without clearly violating it. Thus, a challenge
for the US is to insist on strict compliance by the
non-nuclear-weapon States with both the letter and the spirit of
the NPT obligation to forego nuclear weapons. That requires a
united world, with the means to isolate and sanction those who do
not respect the law. It requires a strong global political
commitment to the NPT, so countries will be prepared to negotiate
new agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency
incorporating the strong new safeguards we finally achieved last
Think about the potential proliferation consequences of an
extended delay in US ratification, accompanied, as would probably
be the case, by such a delay in ratification by Russia and China.
... It could send the message that the weapon States are unwilling
to ever break with their Cold War reliance on nuclear arms -
exactly the wrong signal to send. Under these circumstances, we
would have significantly harmed US efforts to persuade the
international community to join us in insisting on strict
compliance with the NPT and to use the 'strengthened review
process' agreed to at the 1995 NPT Review Conference to advance our
The fourth reason to ratify the CTBT is that it is effectively
verifiable. ... What do we mean by this term? Let me begin with
what it does not mean, effective verification does not mean that
the US has a guarantee that it would be able to detect and
attribute all tests worldwide, under all circumstances, should
violations occur. Effective verification involves political
judgments as well as technical ones; it involves determinations of
acceptable levels of uncertainty. To make a judgment about what is
acceptable, we need to weigh the benefits of the treaty compared to
the likelihood of violations and the potential costs to the US.
Thus, our judgment that the Treaty is effectively verifiable
reflects the belief that US nuclear deterrence would not be
undermined by nuclear testing that the United States might fail to
detect. It further reflects our belief that the Treaty will
effectively deter violations in light of the significant
possibility of detection in combination with the high political
costs if a violation is detected. Moreover, the Treaty's
verification regime, along with our national intelligence means and
diplomatic efforts, will limit an evader's options and provide us
with the means to take prompt and effective counter action should
we suspect a violation has occurred. In sum, we believe that the
benefits of the Treaty to US national security clearly outweigh the
potential costs and likelihood of undetected violations.
We would be concerned about the possibility of any violation,
even a test with a nuclear yield of a few pounds. Quite apart from
the potential military significance of such a test, it would have
serious political consequences and, moreover, could provide us
important information about another States' weapons program. With
or without a CTBT, monitoring the nuclear-related activities of the
nuclear powers and potential proliferators will continue to be a
high priority job of the intelligence community. This brings me to
a fifth reason to ratify the Treaty: it will improve our nuclear
test monitoring capabilities.
The CTBT augments the current national technical means for
monitoring worldwide nuclear testing with additional tools and data
not previously available to the United States. It is a net plus.
The CTBT establishes global networks of four different types of
sensors - seismic, hydroacoustic, radionuclide and infrasound -
that can detect explosions in different physical environments.
These networks, comprising 321 monitoring stations, are called the
International Monitoring System (IMS). Data will be coming in
continuously from the IMS. Some of this data will be recorded at
stations in sensitive parts of the world to which we would not
otherwise have access. Consider, for example, that the IMS includes
31 monitoring stations in Russia, 11 in China and 17 in the Middle
We had a demonstration of some of these capabilities last
summer. In the Kara Sea, near a former Soviet nuclear testing
facility where there had been ongoing activity, seismic sensors
detected an event. This raised red flags about a potential tests in
the area and we began collecting and analyzing data. The event,
with a seismic signal equivalent to about one-tenth of one kiloton,
was detected by several IMS stations in Russia, Norway, Sweden and
Finland. Our intelligence community could confidently locate the
event in the Kara Sea even though a major seismic station in the
region was out of commission.
After analysis, we were satisfied that there was no nuclear
explosion, based solely on remote sensing and study. If the Treaty
were in force we could, of course, choose to use its on-site
inspection regime or consultation and clarification procedures if
there are similar incidents. Sixth, the CTBT will allow us to
maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent.
As a condition of US support for a zero-yield CTBT in the summer
of 1995, President Clinton announced safeguards which collectively
recognize and protect the continued important contribution of
nuclear weapons to US national security. The first safeguard
mandated the conduct of a Stockpile Stewardship program - for which
there must be sustained bipartisan support from Congress - to
ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of
our nuclear weapons stockpile.
Such a program to maintain our nuclear deterrent under a CTBT
was established in 1993 by the Department of Energy (DOE) in close
collaboration with the Strategic Command and the Joint Staff at the
Department of Defense. ... Its point of departure is a rich
database from over 1,000 past nuclear weapon tests that
characterize the operation of our weapons and will serve as a
benchmark for analyzing the operation of our weapons in the future.
If, in the unlikely event doubts about our ability to maintain
the arsenal under a CTBT arise at some point in the future, the
Treaty provides for withdrawal from the Treaty if a party decides
that its supreme interests are jeopardized. President Clinton has
decided (and stated as one of the safeguards that condition US
support for the Treaty) that the safety and reliability of our
nuclear weapons is a supreme national interest. ...
Some may ask, why should we act now to ratify? The condition for
the Treaty's entry into force is ratification by 44 identified
countries - members of the Conference on Disarmament possessing
nuclear power or nuclear research reactors. Of the 44, North Korea,
India and Pakistan have not even signed, although Islamabad voted
to adopt the Treaty at the United Nations General Assembly.
If the Treaty is in our interests - as I believe it is - and
especially if we are going to comply with it anyway, then we should
work to bring it into force as soon as we can.
US ratification will encourage further ratifications, just as US
ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention facilitated
ratification by Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. The most
effective means of moving reluctant States is to make them feel the
sting of isolation on this issue and not to provide them with the
'cover' of US inaction. US delays in ratification would compromise
our efforts to encourage others. In particular, with regard to
India and Pakistan, it is important that when the President travels
to the subcontinent later this year he does so with US ratification
In addition, if the CTBT has not entered into force by September
1999, that is, three years after it was opened for signature, the
Treaty provides for an annual conference of countries that have
ratified to consider how to facilitate early entry into force. The
US should be there. But, to participate, the US must ratify.
Lastly, it is essential that the US continue to demonstrate
leadership with regard to the crucial treaties and regimes that
strengthen our global non-proliferation effort, as it did during
the CTBT negotiations. The US needs to promote the CTBT's entry
into force, not complicate it. ...
At its very core, here is what the CTBT issue comes down to,
what the Senate must consider when making its decision: the nuclear
arms race is over; arsenals are shrinking; our dramatically fewer
remaining weapons can be kept safe and reliable by other means; we
don't need tests; proliferators do; the American people
overwhelmingly want testing banned."
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.
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