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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 40, September - October 1999


Spotlight on the CTBT: Report of the CTBT Article XIV Conference
by Rebecca Johnson


Overshadowed by sudden moves in the US Senate and concerns over whether the United States would ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Special Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force required under Article XIV of the Treaty was held in Vienna, October 6-8, 1999. The Conference closed after 92 participant states unanimously adopted a ten paragraph Final Declaration affirming commitment to the Treaty and calling on all states which had not yet signed and/or ratified the Treaty to do so as soon as possible.

Representing the United Nations, Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette warned that delaying the Treaty's entry into force "increases the risk that nuclear testing could resume". She noted that "we remain at a dangerous crossroads between progressive disarmament and a revival of the arms race". This was, she said, "a moment of choice for every State which has committed itself to a world free from the nuclear arms race, but has yet to turn those words into deeds". On behalf of the United Nations, the CTBT created "an international norm prohibiting all nuclear test explosions, for military, civilian, or any other purpose" and would "give new impetus to the process of nuclear disarmament, with the ultimate aim of eliminating nuclear weapons".

The Conference, chaired by Masahiko Koumura, Japan's former Foreign Minister, went smoothly and lacked drama, despite the heightened tension surrounding US ratification and concerns about the nuclear ambitions of India and Pakistan, neither of which has yet signed the Treaty. Although the actual meeting was perceived as an anti-climax by a number of delegations and observers and the Final Declaration barely went further than rhetoric and generalised exhortations, the Article XIV Conference achieved a large part of its purpose simply by taking place and thereby focussing attention on the Treaty and the need to prevent future nuclear testing.

The target date of the Conference and the political spotlight on testing encouraged 25 states to ratify during 1999, including several which accelerated their ratification legislation just in time for the Conference. Furthermore, increased pressure in the run-up to the Conference from US arms control groups and senators may have precipitated the moves in the US Senate, where the Treaty had been submerged for more than two years in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, from which Jesse Helms had refused to release it to be debated on the floor and voted on.

In terms of outcome, the Article XIV Conference was modest. Of 154 states which had signed the CTBT prior to the Conference, only 92 attended the meeting in Vienna. Representatives of four states which have not yet signed, including Pakistan, also attended. India and North Korea did not send any representatives at all. While many delegations were headed by ambassadors stationed in Vienna, a significant number of countries emphasised the importance of the test ban by sending government ministers. These included: Joschka Fischer, Germany's Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs; Peter Hain MP, UK Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Jean-Pierre Masseret, French Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence; Dr Javad Zarif, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran; Kimmo Sasi, Finland's Minister for European Affairs; Wolfgang Schüssel, Austria's Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs; and an assortment of vice-ministers or deputy secretaries.

After hearing many short statements on the importance of the Treaty, the Conference adopted a Final Declaration which avoided naming states which had not signed or ratified but called for various actions to accelerate entry into force. The Final Declaration was negotiated by Vienna representatives during the weeks prior to the Conference and was practically agreed by the time the Conference took place, with the intention of avoiding confrontation at the actual meeting. There was clearly a concern amongst participants to say nothing that could be used by opponents of the Treaty in key countries, especially the United States, India and Pakistan. To this end, no country was individually named and no actions were suggested that might be construed as punitive or isolating.

Conference participants affirmed their commitment to the Treaty's basic obligations and underlined their undertaking not to do anything which would defeat the object and purpose of the Treaty pending its entry into force. The Final Declaration appealed to India and Pakistan, which have not signed but earlier in the year promised not to impede the Treaty, to sign and ratify as soon as possible and to "refrain from acts which would defeat [the Treaty's] object and purpose". This was a clear call for the two South Asian nations not to conduct any more nuclear explosions. A third non-signatory, North Korea, which has said nothing about its intentions, was likewise called on to sign and ratify.

Although the Final Declaration avoided direct reference to the failure of the United States, Russia and China to ratify in time for the Conference, it called on those states which have signed and not ratified "in particular those whose ratification is needed for its entry into force" to "accelerate their ratification processes with a view to their early successful conclusion".

The conference urged its members to sustain the momentum for entry into force of the CTBT at the highest level and agreed that "one of their number" would be chosen to lead informal consultations and promote cooperation aimed at bringing the Treaty into effect. As President of the Conference, Japan had been intended for this role, but China's opposition -- despite the fact that China has not ratified and thus could not formally participate in decision-making -- meant that Japan could not be formally named. Non-governmental organisations, which were invited to present a short statement to the Conference, were recognised also in the Final Declaration, which appealed "to all relevant sectors of civil society to raise awareness of and support for the objectives of the treaty, as well as its early entry into force..."

Background on Article XIV

The Conference was called by the states that had ratified the CTBT in accordance with Article XIV.2, which reads: "If this Treaty has not entered into force three years after the date of the anniversary of its opening for signature, the Depositary [the United Nations Secretary-General] shall convene a Conference of the States that have already deposited their instruments of ratification upon the request of a majority of those States. That Conference shall examine the extent to which the requirement set out in paragraph 1 [signature and ratification by 44 States listed as having nuclear capabilities] has been met and shall consider and decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty."

During the CTBT negotiations at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament (CD), Russia, China, Britain and Pakistan had insisted that the entry into force requirements must include all countries which might develop a nuclear weapon or testing capability, although their chief targets were the five declared nuclear powers, plus India, Israel and Pakistan. The latter three states have remained outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but were active participants during the CTBT negotiations. As India pulled away from the Treaty in 1996, other negotiators inserted this clumsy provision for an "entry-into-force conference" into Article XIV, in the hope that some international action would be coordinated to keep up pressure for the test ban. However, it was part of the negotiating record that the conference could neither waive, amend or weaken the entry into force provisions, nor impose sanctions on a country which blocked entry into force.1

The Conference was formally convened by the United Nations Secretary-General at the request of a group of states which had ratified by the three-year anniversary of the September 24, 1996, ceremony at the United Nations in New York, when the Treaty was opened for signature.

In opening statements from representatives of the United Nations and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), it was confirmed that by October 6, 154 states had signed, of which 51 have ratified. Of the 44 states necessary for entry into force, 41 have signed and 26 have ratified, leaving 18 states still to be brought fully on board.

Conference Statements

Most statements were short and to the point, highlighting the importance of the Treaty for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and pledging support for the verification system being set up under the auspices of the CTBTO. Several emphasised the responsibility of the five declared nuclear weapon states -- and particularly, in the present circumstances, US leadership. Many also alluded to the nuclear test explosions conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998 and called on them to honour the pledges they gave to sign the Treaty and not conduct further tests. There was much talk of the new millennium and frequent references to the NPT, especially Article VI and the importance given to the CTBT in the Principles and Objectives decision adopted together with indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. Many countries also emphasised their contributions to the International Monitoring System (IMS) and the importance of entry into force for enabling the full verification system to be implemented.

Key Ratifiers

Germany gave the strongest statement from amongst the countries which have ratified, going further than the platitudes of hope and encouragement that characterised many of the statements. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer appealed directly to India and Pakistan "to sign the Treaty and honour the commitments they made to the UN General Assembly" and also called on North Korea to do likewise. He called on Russia, China and the United States "to live up to the special responsibility they bear for the non-proliferation regime" and ratify the Treaty. Addressing the problem in the US Senate, Fischer said that "What is at stake is the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament -- and the future of multilateral arms control". He urged Washington to "send a strong message in support of the Treaty" by ratifying. Looking beyond the test ban, Fischer addressed the problems posed by the South Asian nuclear tests, the proliferation of nuclear know-how, the rapid development and proliferation of long range ballistic missile systems, and the deadlock in the CD.

Germany backed the START reductions and urged the CD to get moving on the fissile materials production ban, but was also pushing for NATO to study "options to be developed in the field of confidence and security building measures, verification, non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament". Fischer posed the question of how ballistic missile defence, "evolved in response to the risks of proliferation", could be made compatible with existing agreements "so the development of such systems does not itself generate new risks or a new arms race". Fischer concluded with the ringing appeal that "success of this Treaty is worth every ounce of effort. Its failure would deal a heavy blow to multilateral arms control and send a fatal signal in terms of our security in the 21st century. Its entry into force...would inject new dynamism into the process of global disarmament."

Britain hailed the Treaty as "a milestone on the road to nuclear disarmament, and an essential defence against the dangers of nuclear proliferation". Emphasising the importance of establishing an effective and functioning IMS, UK Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said that states participating in the CTBT Preparatory Commission also had a duty to ensure that the Provisional Technical Secretariat was given the funding it needed. Linking the Treaty with wider disarmament and non-proliferation objectives, Hain promised that "subject to satisfactory progress, Britain stands ready to include our own nuclear weapons in multilateral negotiations". Although the concept of "satisfactory progress" is deliberately kept vague, it is presumed to include US-Russian (START) reductions and the fissile material production cut-off, which continues to be deadlocked in the CD.

The French Minister of State at the Defence Ministry, John-Pierre Masseret, emphasised France's role in negotiating the CTBT, which provides "for the prohibition of any nuclear blast at whatever level, as France had proposed, and implies the end of the development of new types of more sophisticated weapons and of qualitative escalation in connection with such weapons". Masseret said that the importance which France attaches to the CTBT was confirmed when France and Britain were the first nuclear weapon states (NWS) to ratify on April 6, 1996, and when France went even further by dismantling its test site in the South Pacific. France also emphasised the importance of the verification system and said that entry into force of the Treaty was "a crucial stage of the international arrangements aimed at combatting the proliferation of nuclear weapons".

Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura underlined that "at this conference it is imperative to issue a strong message which urges non-signatories and non-ratifiers to sign and ratify the treaty at the earliest possible date... before April next year when the NPT review conference will be held". Japan gave one of the few statements to name states targetted in its appeal, calling on the United States, Russia and China to ratify in order to "promote early entry into force of the treaty ...[and] contribute to the success of the NPT review conference". Japan urged India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign and ratify the CTBT and called on other members of the international community to assist in the process by adding to the pressure. Israel, which signed in 1996, was urged to accelerate its ratification process.

Though the Final Declaration shied away from naming names, South Africa's statement identified the countries which need now to act in order for the Treaty to take effect. India, Pakistan and North Korea were called on to sign and ratify the Treaty. Algeria, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, the United States and Viet Nam were identified as states which have signed but not yet ratified. In one of the strongest comments on the ratification mess in the United States, South Africa's ambassador, Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko spoke of watching "with consternation and concern" efforts in the Senate to "thwart ratification of the Treaty" and called on the US Senate to "master the bipartisan resolve and courage necessary to give consent to the US Government to ratify the Treaty and join the international community in reinforcing the legal force of the CTBT and its moral authority against nuclear test explosions".

Expressing concern that some states were even making their ratification contingent on various conditionalities, Mxakato-Diseko criticised "narrow conceptions of national security that fail to embrace the entirety of humanity" and warned against short term geopolitical considerations that would "bequeath to the next millennium and future generations a spectre that will be both a tragic and telling indictment of us all".

Australia also called for bipartisan support for the Treaty in the US Senate. Sweden called the CTBT a "win-win proposition" and pleaded: "let us not allow short-term political aims or political gamesmanship to stand in the way of achieving this noble objective." Sweden stressed the importance of a follow-up to the Conference, including "the delivery of our common message from here to those most concerned". In its turn, New Zealand echoed the New Agenda Coalition exhortation not to enter the twenty-first century with the prospect that the possession of nuclear weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future.

Malaysia raised the common concern about the south Asian tests, and went on to urge a "total ban, including sub-critical and simulation tests, to put a halt to the qualitative improvement and proliferation of nuclear weapons". Like many statements, Canada underlined the importance of enabling the verification regime to become fully effective, also reminding those concerned about the potential for cheating that "an only partially operational IMS was able to detect and identify the 1998 nuclear test explosions carried out by India and Pakistan". Canada wanted "sustained intersessional action", including diplomatic consultations and "purposeful follow-up" to "demonstrate our collective commitment to the advancement of the CTBT implementation process" and accelerate entry into force.

Dr. S A Samad argued that Bangladesh's delay in ratifying had "no relation to our trust and commitment to the goals of the CTBT" but derived from its concerns about the burden of paying for the verification system: "We strongly feel that its full cost should be borne by the countries on whose account we need such a treaty. We believe that countries which do not possess nuclear weapons and do not have any intention to procure the technology to produce such weapons should not ordinarily be asked to pay for the cost of implementing the Treaty."

Key Signatories (Non-Ratifiers)

Statements from some of the non-ratifiers were more defensive. The United States' ambassador, John Ritch, ruefully referred to the Treaty as becoming a "political football" in the US Senate and said the Administration had "hoped to keep the CTBT out of our domestic partisan scrimmage". Ritch would have preferred to represent an American Administration "that had not only signed the CTBT but also ratified it". According to the United States, "bringing the CTBT into force will be integral to a broader effort to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, and thereby to affirm Mankind's determination to shape a civilization more enlightened than can be found in this millennium's annals of human carnage". Ritch stressed that "my government believes that the CTBT is, and will remain, a success" and said that "we here should resolve that one of diplomacy's first achievements in the new millennium will be the full codification of this Treaty's pledge to cease forever the conduct of nuclear explosions." He noted that the CTBT "enjoys solid and overwhelming public support among the American people" and said that "even if the current rush of activity fails to produce immediately the necessary two-thirds" support, that will not be the end of it. It will not be the end of it in terms of parliamentary procedure -- for even a negative vote would not preclude a subsequent and affirmative Senate decision. It will not be the end of it in terms of political will -- for this cause will endure, and the fight will go on".

Russia, for whom a strict entry into force provision had been a bottom line during the negotiations, argued again that the stringency of Article XIV was "an integral part of the overall package of agreements which contributed to the success of the Treaty negotiations" and provided for "a mechanism to ensure the viability of the Treaty and the realisation of its tasks". Ambassador Valery Loshchinin said that Russia had not conducted any nuclear explosions and would "continue to observe the basic obligations under the CTBT pending entry into force...Provided... that the other Treaty signatories will do likewise". He said that the government had prepared the necessary documents to send the CTBT to the Duma for ratification, which would be done shortly, but stressed "our attitude towards the CTBT ratification is based on the assessment of the overall ratification process including in those States whose ratification is required" for the Treaty's entry into force.

China referred to the CTBT's ratification process as "sluggish". Saying only that China would "pick-up" its ratification process "on the basis of conducting a full review of the Treaty per se and the international security environment", Ambassador Sha Zukang hoped "that those which have not yet signed and/or ratified the Treaty will do so at an early date so as to contribute to the early entry into force...". Like Russia, China defended the stringent entry into force provisions, calling them "indispensable to the attainment of the purpose of the Treaty" and warning the Conference participants that their powers were limited under Article XIV. Sha identified a "new security concept based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation" as the "precondition and foundation for the early entry into force and the increasing universality of the CTBT". China was particularly concerned about the nuclear explosions in South Asia and the pursuit of national and theatre missile defence programmes, as well as "the wanton and indiscriminate bombing of a small and weak non-nuclear weapon states [Yugoslavia] ...by the world's most powerful military bloc under the pretext of defending human rights", calling such actions "detrimental to international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation endeavours".


Although four states which have not yet signed the Treaty (Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe) attended, only Pakistan's ambassador Shaukat Umer made a statement. He was at pains to distinguish Pakistan's attitude to the CTBT from India's, essentially arguing that where India was ideologically opposed the test ban and nuclear arms control, Pakistan had in principle backed the Treaty and had only conducted underground nuclear tests as a response to India's explosions, "to restore the strategic balance in the interest of its own security as well as regional stability". Umer emphasised that "we remain committed to adhering to the CTBT in an atmosphere free of coercion". Since the statement focussed mostly on regional problems and India's nuclear posture, no firmer indication of when Pakistan would sign the Treaty was given.

Umer heavily underscored the importance for Pakistan of Article XIV's requirement of "compulsory adherence" by the 44 states with nuclear capabilities, warning that "the goal of bringing the Treaty into force could also unravel if one or more of the nuclear weapon States reject the ratification of the CTBT". In Pakistan's view, this "would signal that nuclear testing could be resumed in [the] future". Whilst a number of delegations and the President of the Conference expressed warm appreciation of Pakistan's attendance and willingness to engage on the Treaty, several privately expressed concern that beneath the language of engagement, Pakistan was as locked into regional rivalry as ever, and would be very unlikely to sign before India had done so.


George Bunn, a former US ambassador who had worked on both the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), made a strong appeal for US ratification on behalf of NGOs which have long been working to achieve the test ban treaty. The NGO statement called on the international community to name the countries, which have not yet signed or ratified, and to send high-level groups of emissaries to persuade those states to join the Treaty. The NGOs appealed to the relevant states to improve their flexibility in working with the CTBTO to ensure that an effective verification system would be available and ready. They described the contamination and radioactivity from more than 2,000 past nuclear tests, saying: "Retaining an option to conduct nuclear tests will raise tensions and increase instability. Testing will add to arsenals and make nuclear war more likely. Testing will reduce the monies available to governments to feed their hungry and educate their poor...Further testing would provide more radioactive contamination to pollute the water supplies of future generations, endangering health and survival".

The NGO statement proposed that if a future Article XIV were to be necessary, it should be held in New York, with the intention of making it a higher profile political event. Bunn concluded with the NGO's appeal: "Seize the chance now to end nuclear testing forever, as the next and indispensable step towards the elimination of nuclear threats".


The Article XIV Conference was more substantial than the "handwringing conference" predicted when the provision was discussed in 1996, but in the end it was able to exercise only the powers of spotlighting and exhortation. Taking place under the shadow of the partisan politicking in Washington, the Conference probably got more press coverage in the United States than would otherwise have been possible, but it was barely reported outside US-based media and Japan.

In terms of its rules and conduct, the Article XIV Conference has set some useful precedents. However, the desire not to offend any participant -- including non-signatories and non-ratifiers -- and to have the political negotiations and Final Declaration sewn up in advance made for a drab Conference with few teeth. Unfortunately the US Senate's rejection of the Treaty just a week later showed how easily the collective will of 154 nations could be disregarded by the extremists of one country's dominant party. There is a difficult tightrope to walk between political expedience and relevance; between offending those you want to bring on board and letting them off the hook. It is a sad fact that a further Article XIV Conference will almost certainly be required, probably in early 2001. In that event, the ratifiers should set the conference in New York and aim to be bolder in their demands on the holdouts, whoever they may be.

Notes & References

1. "Accelerating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: The Article XIV Special Conference", George Bunn, with Rebecca Johnson and Daryl Kimball, published by the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, Washington DC, May 1999.

Rebecca Johnson is Executive Director of the Acronym Institute.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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