Touch-and-go for a Comprehensive Test Ban: the 28 June Deadline


Current Issues Brief 19 1995-96

David Anderson
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group

Contents

Major Issues

Introduction

Highlights Of Negotiations In The CD, Late 1995 And 1996

  • 1995 Negotiations
  • 1996 Negotiations: 1st Session
  • 1996 Negotiations: 2nd Session

China's Position on a CTBT

India's Position on a CTBT

Pakistan's Position on a CTBT

The Non-Aligned Movement

Other Undecided Issues: The Entry Into Force Provisions

Australia's Role

  • In the United Nations
  • At the Conference on Disarmament
  • Internationally
  • In Australia

Conclusion

Endnotes

Appendix: Chronology of Major Events Relevant to Nuclear Testing Moratoriums and CTBT Negotiations

Glossary

Major Issues

For the last two and a half years, negotiations have been proceeding in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva with the aim of producing a total ban on nuclear testing. As this paper is being written, proceedings are at a critical stage. The current round of negotiations finishes on 28 June, and the aim is to have an agreed treaty text by this date. Certainly there is provision for another negotiating session, beginning on 29 July, but it must be acknowledged that if the present intense negotiations cannot produce satisfactory compromises in entrenched positions on the few remaining key issues, it may well be that the parties are too far apart for even another round of negotiations to make much difference.

Certainly negotiations in the CD over the last twelve months have seen some major breakthroughs:

  • On 11 August 1995, President Clinton announced that the US would pursue a zero-yield comprehensive test ban (CTB), not allowing even hydronuclear tests.
  • On 29 January 1996, President Chirac announced that France had ended its controversial testing programme and would begin taking new initiatives aimed at world disarmament.
  • On 20 April 1996, President Yeltsin promised to support a treaty that would prohibit all tests.
  • More recently, in June, China first agreed to abandon its demands for peaceful nuclear explosions to be exempted from a test ban and, second, announced that it would end all testing after one more test in September.

While these commitments to a comprehensive ban on testing largely resolve what had been the most serious issue of the negotiations, the scope of the treaty, several significant issues remain unresolved. With most of the 38 member countries in the CD united on these matters, the most serious opposition is coming from China and India.

China continues to hold to its position on on-site inspections, which form a vital part of the verification regime for the treaty. Most other countries are prepared to regard data collected by spy satellites or other technical means as adequate to trigger an inspection. But China wants to strictly limit data acceptable for an inspection request to that obtained by the International Monitoring System, which covers only the four sources: seismological, radionuclide, hydroacoustic and infrasound data.

India's problems at the CD stem from its distinctive view of the objectives of a CTB treaty. Whereas the US regards the treaty as an important contribution to its non-proliferation policy, India wants the test ban to operate as an instrument of disarmament by linking the treaty to a definite timetable for eliminating nuclear weapons. India sees both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which came into force in 1970, and the CTB treaty as discriminatory, part of an attempt by the five nuclear powers to legitimise and secure their monopoly of nuclear weapons. While the nuclear powers acknowledge that the ultimate goal is nuclear disarmament, they firmly oppose any linking of the treaty with a disarmament timetable.

Hopefully the Indian position can be accommodated in the treaty by means of a statement in the preamble, similar to the preamble to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but offering much firmer commitments. But there is no possibility of the nuclear powers committing themselves to a firm target date for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As Indian policy has hardened during the last year, Pakistan has tended to follow suit, demanding, for example, that the nuclear powers should endorse a timetable for nuclear disarmament. However, Pakistan has little interest in carrying out a nuclear test, realising it would cost more in international condemnation that would be gained in technical or strategic benefits, and generally supports the CTB. Its main concern is to prevent India from gaining any advantage; it is most unlikely that Pakistan would sign the CTB treaty if India does not.

The one remaining disagreement over the scope of the treaty stems from the criticism of the US by India and Pakistan for its planned series of 'sub-critical' experiments, i.e. experiments with plutonium which stop short of creating a nuclear reaction. India and Pakistan argue that allowing sub-critical underground experiments would pave the way for nuclear weapon states to improve their arsenals.

One significant issue which is still causing problems at the negotiations is the provisions for the treaty's entry into force. If, as a number of states believe, ratification of the treaty by both India and Pakistan, as threshold states, is regarded as essential for the treaty's operation, there is a real danger that the treaty will never come into force because both states are unlikely to sign, let alone ratify. In the model treaty text presented to the conference in January this year, the solution to this dilemma was achieved by means of a waiver. This Australian text provides that, in the event of a deadlock, a conference of the states which have ratified the treaty can decide, by a two-thirds majority, to waive other ratification requirements. A similar formula will be necessary in the completed treaty document .

In view of Australia's long record of commitment to a CTB treaty, including very significant diplomatic effort in its pursuit, it is understandable that the Australian delegation at the CD has been among the most active of those involved in the negotiations. Its significant contributions include:

  • Its presentation, in March 1994, of a draft treaty text. This document together with a draft treaty text presented by Sweden, formed the foundation for the 'rolling text' which has been the negotiating text for most of the conference.
  • Its presentation, in February 1996, of the model treaty text mentioned above. This was an attempt to give new momentum to the negotiations.
  • Its chairing of the drafting group on the International Monitoring System, the key component of the treaty's verification regime. As part of the CD Chairman's recent attempt to expedite proceedings, Australia was appointed as 'moderator' for both the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre.

Australia has provided technical experts in the development of the International Monitoring System. Australian facilities will be crucial to the effective functioning of this System; only Russia and the US will host more monitoring stations than Australia.

Hopefully the issues still in dispute can be resolved. Failure to complete the treaty will be a major setback to the arms control and disarmament regime.

Introduction

For the last two and a half years, negotiations have been proceeding in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva with the aim of producing a total ban on nuclear testing. As this paper is being written, proceedings are at a critical stage. The current round of negotiations finishes on 28 June, and the aim is to have an agreed treaty text by this date.

Despite the intense focus on 28 June, it can be argued that this deadline is somewhat artificial. As part of the agreement to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the Conference in New York in April 1995, participating nations called for the completion of a test ban treaty no later than 1996. Then at the UN General Assembly in December 1995 the international community adopted a resolution calling for the conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) 'as soon as possible in 1996'. An agreement reached by 28 June would give time for the text to be translated and sent back to capitals, and then be presented to a special session of the 50th UN General Assembly in early September. That would allow for scheduling a signing ceremony during the regular 51st assembly, which begins later in September.

But if, for example, there was still disagreement over the text on 28 June, and it was agreed to extend the negotiating session by a week of so in an effort to resolve differences, an agreement reached in early July would still fit in with the present timetable. And if agreement cannot be reached, the treaty could be carried over to another negotiating session, scheduled to run from 29 July to 13 September, with the signing of an eventual treaty put off until early 1997.

However, the 28 June deadline does have symbolic and psychological importance. Nearly all the 38 nations at the Conference on Disarmament are eager to reach agreement by this date. And, most important, if the present intense negotiations cannot produce satisfactory compromises in entrenched positions on the few remaining key issues, it may well be that the parties are too far apart for even another round of negotiations to make much difference.

------------

This paper will first outline highlights of the last six months or so of negotiations. Then there will be a discussion of the attitudes of several of the major participants with emphasis on the remaining obstacles to completion of the treaty. Readers desiring more background on the value of a comprehensive test ban and on the early negotiations should read the Parliamentary Research Service Current Issues Brief No.2, 'Are we finally on track for a Comprehensive Test Ban', issued in August 1995.

Highlights Of Negotiations In The CD, Late 1995 And 1996

1995 Negotiations

Proceedings in the CD suffered several setbacks in 1995. First there was the Chinese nuclear test in May 1995, just three days after the NPT extension conference in New York had issued, by consensus, a document which stipulated that:

Pending the entry into force of a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the nuclear-weapon states should exercise utmost restraint(1) (i.e. refrain from testing nuclear weapons)

A month later, on 13 June, President Chirac announced that France would resume the testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific, with a series of eight tests. Soon after there were reports that the US Pentagon favoured a low-threshold test ban, permitting tests equal to several hundred tons of TNT, rather than a comprehensive test ban. Then in August, India introduced a new obstacle to progress with a demand that any test ban treaty should be linked with a program for attaining total nuclear disarmament.

A major breakthrough came on 11 August with an announcement by President Clinton that the US would pursue a zero-yield CTB with even hydronuclear tests being excluded. This declaration by the major nuclear power gave a new lease of life to the negotiations.

1996 Negotiations: 1st Session

The negotiations recommenced on 22 January 1996 with some optimism but also a real consciousness that time was running out. The first month was not promising, and it was obvious that the existing negotiating process, working from the 'rolling text' with its many bracketed parts denoting areas of disagreement, would not deliver a treaty by mid-year. On 29 February, Australia tabled at the Conference a 'model text' of a CTB treaty, with explanatory notes. This text was produced after consideration of the various national positions, and offered resolution of the bracketed sections in the rolling text. The aim of this model treaty text was, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to 'assist in...refocussing the negotiations, and giving an upward shift in their style and pace'.(2)

Notable during the first session was the new enthusiasm of the French delegation following the announcement by President Chirac on 29 January that France had ended its controversial testing program in the South Pacific, and would embark on a fresh campaign in favour of disarmament. On the final day of this session, 29 March, the Chairman of the CD, the Dutch diplomat Jaap Ramaker, took the Australian model text a step further by tabling his own edited version of the rolling text. Although Ramaker's working paper still included many sections of bracketed texts, it helped focus activity on the key areas of disagreement.

However this first negotiating session of 1996 ended with the major issues - the scope of the treaty, the nature of on-site inspections and the provisions by which the treaty would enter into force - still unresolved. One positive step came on 20 April, three weeks before the second session began, when President Yeltsin, opening an eight-nation summit on nuclear safety and security, promised to support a treaty that would prohibit all nuclear tests and explosions. For most of 1994 and 1995, Russia had favoured a test ban with a threshold yield as high as 80kt, although in October 1995, President Yeltsin had indicated Russia's support in principle for a zero-yield test ban.

On 25 April, Stephen Ledogar, the chief US negotiator, described the state of the negotiations as 'depressing' and 'shameful', and warned that 'the window of opportunity to accomplish this long-sought objective could close very suddenly.' He also presaged a tougher attitude by the USA at the Conference, claiming that 'US goodwill in this negotiation is being taken for granted', and warning that 'the United States will not sign a document that does not meet fundamental requirements'.(3)

1996 Negotiations: 2nd Session

The CD resumed on 13 May for a seven-week session, the conclusion of which marked the deadline for producing an agreed text. Chairman Ramaker immediately introduced a series of steps to expedite proceedings:

  • meetings were now to take place at night as well as during the day
  • a new negotiating method was introduced to replace the former method, which had relied on two Working Groups, one dealing with verification and one with legal and institutional issues. The Chairman now appointed a series of 'moderators', each dealing with an area of the treaty containing unresolved issues. Thus Australia serves as moderator for the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre, and there are other moderators for such matters as the entry into force provisions and on-site inspection.
  • on 29 May, the Chairman presented a further document, 'A draft comprehensive nuclear test ban'. This document is the result of consultation with all parties, and attempts to capture a 'middle ground' position on the disputed sections of the treaty. On most issues it resembles Australia's model text, and is serving as the new negotiating text.

There is a sense of urgency at the Conference as a series of intense consultations take place between delegations. The focus, of course, is particularly on the five nuclear weapon states (the US, the UK, France, Russia and China) and the three 'threshold states' (India, Pakistan and Israel), as they reconsider their negotiating positions.

China's Position on a CTBT

China's policies have caused some concern during the negotiations. Its most troublesome positions have been on the issues of peaceful nuclear explosions and on-site inspection.

Alone among the Conference members, China has insisted from the start that peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) be exempted from the test ban. Although it claims to have no plans to conduct PNEs at present, it says it cannot rule out forever the option of conducting PNEs for excavation or other purposes. The problem with a PNE is that it is virtually impossible to determine whether it is being used as a weapons test. A major breakthrough came on 6 June when China's ambassador to the Conference announced that China was abandoning its demand to be allowed to carry out PNEs. This has largely resolved what has been the most fundamental and contentious negotiating issue, namely the scope of the treaty, what activities the treaty will ban. Certainly this concession was conditional on the issue of PNEs being reconsidered in ten years at a treaty review conference. However, insofar as China agreed that inclusion of PNEs in the treaty would require consensus at any review conference, it does seem this condition is to serve as a face-saving provision. Two days later, on 8 June, China announced that after one more nuclear test in September, it would commence a moratorium.

Some commentators have argued that China's hardline attitude on nuclear tests has reflected an increasingly influential military anxious to develop a missile capable of carrying more than one warhead. Its recent concessions could indicate some success with this aim, but probably also show that China is feeling the pressure of isolation as the treaty's deadline draws near. To be known as the state that caused the failure of the CTBT would be a harsh label for any government.

Another factor in China's backdown on PNEs could be its wish to concentrate on other segments of the treaty which it considers more important. A key issue here is the type of information which may be used as the basis of a request for an on-site inspection. In Australia's model text - the on-site inspection provisions of which are generally supported by a majority at the Conference - data collected by any element in the treaty's verification regime can be adequate to trigger an inspection request. Thus information provided by spy satellites, which are included in the category of 'associated measures' in the verification regime in the model text, would be sufficient. China wants to strictly limit data acceptable for an inspection request to that obtained by the International Monitoring System, thus excluding the use of intelligence. This would greatly weaken the 'challenge' inspection provision, the aim of which is to deter any secret testing.

At present it appears positions are polarised on this and other aspects of the on-site inspection provision, which has become probably the major unresolved issue. On 25 April 1996, speaking on the question of the information source which can be used to trigger an on-site inspection, Stephen Ledogar warned:

For the United States, the answer to that will determine whether we agree to participation in this treaty or not.(4)

It is interesting to look at the way Australia's model text handles the problem of on-site inspection requests, with its attempt to bridge differences by requiring different decision-making processes depending on the information source providing the basis for the request. Thus if an on-site inspection request is based on International Monitoring System data, a majority vote by the CTBT implementing organisation is necessary to block the request, whereas if the request is based solely on non-International Monitoring System data, a majority vote is needed to approve the request.

Right up to the late 1970s, on-site inspection was one of the chief issues dividing the US and the Soviets in their negotiations towards a comprehensive test ban. But since the mid-1980s a number of treaties have come into force containing detailed and intrusive 'inspection on demand' provisions. It would be most unfortunate if this issue emerged as a treaty-breaker in 1996.

India's Position on a CTBT

India, together with Pakistan and Israel, is categorised as one of the 'threshold nuclear states', i.e. states which have the capability to assemble nuclear weapons at short notice. In Israel's case there is also an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal.

Unlike most countries in the world, India has a strong element in its population which believe that nuclear weapons will confer upon the country the status of a great power, regardless of its economic development. More specifically, it is felt that India needs nuclear weapons to deter nuclear threats from Pakistan and China. An India-wide opinion poll in December 1995 found that 62 per cent of respondents wanted India to develop nuclear weapons to counter the nuclear threat posed by its neighbours. And the last 12 months have seen a vigorous intellectual debate taking place in the Indian media on the advantages and disadvantages to India of a CTBT.

Because of its strategic views, India's traditional attitude to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970, has been that it is discriminatory, allowing the five nuclear weapon powers to proliferate vertically while denying horizontal proliferation. The indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in May 1995 was seen by India as a first step by the nuclear powers towards legitimising their possession of nuclear weapons, with the CTBT being merely a follow-up 'ploy' to cement this monopoly. The test ban is thus being portrayed as a check on India's ability to develop its nuclear capability and achieve status as a nuclear power. Signing the treaty in its present form is thus seen as constituting a weakening of its sovereignty.

India rejects a test ban which would operate only as an instrument of non-proliferation, serving only to maintain the nuclear status quo. Instead it advocates a test ban which would operate as an instrument of disarmament, thus binding the nuclear states to make real reductions in their stockpiles in return for the constraints which the treaty would necessarily place on the threshold states. This position first emerged during the latter half of 1995, as it sought to link the treaty to a definite timetable for eliminating nuclear weapons. It has been difficult to say whether this is a firm policy, for which India was prepared to sabotage the treaty, or a bargaining ploy, aimed at extracting whatever tangible concessions it could from countries such as the USA. It is known that India wants to upgrade its own nuclear weapons potential to a point where an advantage is reached in relation to Pakistan and China, and technical help from the existing nuclear powers might be welcome.

On 20 June 1996, Ambassador Arundhati Ghose, the head of India's delegation, made an ominously hardline statement on the matter, saying it could not go along with the CTBT in its present form. However, it was not clear from Ambassador Ghose's remarks whether India would exercise its veto to block the treaty, or simply refuse to sign it. It was reported that Ambassador Ghose also said: 'We're still in the negotiations....There's still hope for compromise.' Two factors which probably contributed to this hardline statement were China's nuclear test on 8 June and recent reports in The Washington Times that Pakistan has deployed the M-11 missile received from China.

There is general opposition to India's proposal in the CD, mainly because of fear it would seriously delay or block the conclusion of the CTBT, but also because there is as yet little agreement on the forum, timing and conditions for advancing disarmament beyond the CTBT and the START agreements.

While firmly opposing any linking of the treaty with a disarmament timetable, the nuclear states have made slight concessions. On 12 March this year, John Holum, director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, acknowledged:

The CTBT itself will also amount to an indispensable step relating to nuclear disarmament, which remains our ultimate goal...(5)

At present it seems possible that the Indian position can be accommodated in the treaty by means of a statement in the preamble, along the lines of the preamble to the NPT, but offering much firmer commitment. A minimum requirement would seem to be some mention of the need for a target date for eliminating nuclear arsenals, without necessarily specifying a date.

Pakistan's Position on a CTBT

It is ironic that two countries which generally regard each other as their worst enemies should be so closely aligned in policy at the CTB negotiations. As India's policy has hardened during the last year, Pakistan has tended to follow suit, demanding, for example, that the nuclear powers should endorse a timetable for nuclear disarmament.

Another topic on which Pakistan and India agree is their criticism of the US for its planned series of 'sub-critical' experiments, i.e. experiments with plutonium which stop short of creating a nuclear reaction. This issue constitutes the one remaining disagreement over the scope of the treaty, with India and Pakistan arguing that allowing sub-critical underground experiments would pave the way for nuclear weapon states to improve their arsenals. The US insists that such tests are not aimed at developing new nuclear weapons, but are needed to help maintain the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear stockpile. The attitude of Eric Arnett, researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, to such experiments is that banning them 'is unworkable because it would be impossible to verify and unnecessary because of the small contribution these activities make to modernisation'.(6)

It appears Pakistan's main concern with the CTB is to prevent India from gaining any advantage. Since the Indian nuclear test in 1974, Pakistan's nuclear policy has aimed at providing an effective deterrent to India. It admits to having the capability to produce nuclear weapons but denies any intention of doing so. Because a nuclear test would cause Pakistan to lose more than it gained - arousing international condemnation and probably inciting India to expand its nuclear arsenal - Pakistan generally supports the CTB. As Eric Arnett comments:

India will be more affected by the CTB, since its bigger and more ambitious nuclear programme is more in need of nuclear tests.(7)

However, just as Pakistan did not sign the NPT following the Indian refusal to do so, it is most unlikely it will sign the CTBT if India does not sign.

The Non-Aligned Movement

Early in the CD's first session this year, it did seem that the non-aligned movement(8) was going to start playing a significant part as a bloc in the Conference. In January, when India insisted it would accept the CTBT only if it was linked with a timetable to eliminate nuclear weapons, 21 other non-aligned countries also criticised the nuclear powers for failing to move towards total disarmament. However, they did stop short of demanding the linking of disarmament with the test ban, and since then the nations concerned seemed to have realised the need to resolve the remaining contentious issues if they want a completed treaty.

Other Undecided Issues: The Entry Into Force Provisions

A number of major issues which were in dispute for most of 1994 and 1995 have now been resolved. For example, it has been decided that the organisation to implement the treaty will be based in Vienna, separate from, but closely coordinated with, the International Atomic Energy Agency. And there are other issues which, although not yet decided, are unlikely to delay completion of the treaty, e.g. the composition of the treaty's governing council.

However, one significant issue which has been causing problems is the provisions for the treaty's entry into force. There are three main requirements which most countries participating at the CD consider it important to meet:

  • the number and composition of states parties at entry into force should be adequate to enable effective financing of the CTBT Organisation and effective implementation of the International Monitoring System;
  • all 'key' states should ratify the treaty before it enters into force. States differ in their definition of what should constitute a 'key' state for this purpose, e.g. some states, including China, Russia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, believe this should include both the five nuclear weapon states and the three threshold states; others, including the USA and France, regard ratification by only the five nuclear weapon states as necessary for the treaty's entry into force.
  • it is necessary to prevent entry into force being blocked by a delay in ratification by any individual state.

It is obvious that if ratification by India and Pakistan, as threshold states, is regarded as essential for the treaty's operation, there is a danger that the treaty will never come into force because both states are unlikely to sign, let alone ratify. Thus a formula must be found which can resolve the dilemma if such a situation arose. In Australia's model text, the solution is introduced in the form of a waiver. In the event of a deadlock, the model text provides that a conference of the states which have ratified the treaty can decide, by a two-thirds majority, to waive other ratification requirements.

In the CD chairman's compromise text, presented on 29 May 1996, and now serving as the negotiating text, the ratifications must include all the countries housing the primary seismic facilities and all the countries housing radionuclide facilities. As well as the five nuclear weapon states, this includes both India and Pakistan, thus opening the way for a deadlock to occur. There is need for inclusion of some provision similar to the waiver provision to allow the treaty to come into force.

Some states, including Australia, would prefer not to nominate any 'key' states, allowing the treaty to come into force when a minimum number of unspecified ratifications, perhaps 65, have been received.

Australia's Role

In the United Nations

The Australian delegation at the CD has been among the most active of those involved in the negotiations. This is understandable in view of Australia's long record of bipartisan commitment to a CTBT dating from the 1970s. Australia has traditionally sponsored, together with New Zealand, a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling for the negotiation of a CTBT, and in August 1993, in collaboration with Nigeria and Mexico, Australia brokered the original negotiating mandate setting in train the CTBT negotiations in the CD.

At the Conference on Disarmament

At the Conference, Australia's chief contribution has been in taking initiatives to give new momentum to the negotiations or to resolve long-standing contentious issues. Early in the negotiations, in March 1994, Australia presented a draft of the text of the treaty, entitled 'Australian Resource Paper on Draft Treaty Elements'. This document, together with a draft treaty text presented by Sweden, formed the foundation for the 'rolling text', created in September 1994, which has been the negotiating text for most of the conference. Australia has also tabled a large number of working papers designed to clarify outstanding issues and promote Australian priorities.

On 29 February 1996, Australia presented the model treaty text already mentioned in this paper. The Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John Holum, described this Australian draft text as 'a very positive development' and 'a catalyst' to move the negotiations forward. Holum said the Australian proposal to resolve issues 'points the way to breaking the logjam of going bracket-by-bracket'.(9)

During 1994 and much of 1995, a senior member of the Australian Delegation was chairing a drafting group on the International Monitoring System within the verification Working Group. Later he was appointed 'Friend of the Chair' for the International Monitoring System, and recently, as part of the CD Chairman's attempt to expedite proceedings, Australia was appointed as 'moderator' for both the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre.

On the critical issue of scope, Australia's approach has always been that the Treaty must be truly comprehensive, and this position was made known to the nuclear weapon states repeatedly and emphatically. Australia has been at the forefront of non-nuclear weapon states' opposition to any suggestion for a threshold to allow for even very low-yield nuclear explosions, arguing this would be totally incompatible with the intended comprehensive nature of the CTBT.

Internationally

It could be argued that the most significant contribution by Australia has been in its regular high-level consultations with key states. Australian officials have regularly visited the capitals of the five nuclear weapon states and of other key countries involved in the negotiations, to explain such matters as our model text initiative and to seek support for the intensification of the negotiating process.

In Australia

Australia has also made a significant contribution to the development of the key component of the verification regime - the International Monitoring System - by providing technical experts in the seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide technologies. These Australian experts, in addition to participating in CTBT-related conferences internationally and in the negotiations in Geneva, act as a consultative panel for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to assist in the development of Australian policy in the area of verification. By virtue of our geography and our existing expertise and infrastructure, Australian facilities will be crucial to the effective functioning of the International Monitoring System: only Russia and the US will host more monitoring stations than Australia.(10)

Conclusion

With the 28 June deadline less than two weeks away, there are still several issues in contention, with China and India presenting the major obstacles to the majority point of view. The dispute over on-site inspection appears to offer the greatest threat to completion of the treaty. On-site inspection is an important aspect of the verification regime, and an effective treaty cannot allow much compromise in this area. At the time of writing, it appears the opposing sides on the issue are poles apart, and if China maintains its present position it is difficult to see any agreement.

Until recently it seemed India's demand, that the treaty be linked with a timetable for the elimination of nuclear weapons, could be resolved, but time is running out, and concessions are needed on both sides. The differences stem from opposing views of the objective of a CTBT; the US sees the treaty only as a contribution to its anti-proliferation policy, while India wants it to have a disarmament impact.

The value of a CTBT has been discussed in the Parliamentary Research Service Current Issues Brief No.2, 'Are we finally on track for a comprehensive test ban?, issued in August 1995. Perhaps the major value of a treaty will be in preventing the modernisation of existing nuclear arsenals. As Eric Arnett recently pointed out:

It is popularly believed that US simulation technology is so advanced that it can practically replace testing. In fact, simulation technology is not that advanced, even for modeling new weapons.(11)

What we can say is that a CTBT will have definite symbolic value, and that failure to complete a treaty will be a major setback to the arms control and disarmament regime.

Endnotes

  1. 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. 9 May 1995. NPT/CONF.1995/L.5.
  2. Australian Permanent Mission to Conference on Disarmament. Statement by Michael Costello, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 'Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Negotiations'. 29 February 1996.
  3. Judy Alta. Ledogar warns CTBT negotiations may fail. USIS Wireless File, EPF 411. 25 April 1996.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ledogar on progress toward comprehensive test ban treaty. Wireless File. EPF207. 12 March 1996.
  6. E. Arnett (ed). Nuclear weapons after the comprehensive test ban. Oxford, SIPRI/OUP, 1996: 130.
  7. Ibid: 81.
  8. Formed in 1961, the non-aligned movement consists of countries which do not adhere to the main East-West military and political blocks. The current membership is around 109 countries.
  9. J.S.Porth. Holum sees agreed CTBT draft possible by June. Wireless File. EPF512. 8 March 1996.
  10. Australia will host 20 stations in all (4 Primary Seismological Stations; 3 Auxiliary Seismological Stations; 7 Radionuclide Stations; 1 Hydroacoustic Station; 5 Infrasound Stations).
    The US will host 38 stations; Russia 31 stations; Canada 15 stations.
  11. E. Arnett. Nuclear club gets clubbier. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. May/June 1996: 12.

Appendix: Chronology of Major Events Relevant to Nuclear Testing Moratoriums and CTBT Negotiations

31 Oct. 1958
Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests, between USSR, USA and UK, begins in Geneva. Each nation begins a moratorium on nuclear testing soon after.
  • main contentious issue of negotiation: verification, especially obligatory on-site inspections.
13 Feb. 1960
First French nuclear test.
29 Jan. 1962
Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests formally ends, in deadlock.
  • breakdown in negotiations mainly due to the deteriorating political climate, especially over the Berlin situation
25 April 1962
The USA resumes atmospheric testing.
31 Aug. 1962
Russia resumes testing.
1962-1963
Negotiations on the creation of a comprehensive test ban continue in UN, especially in the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (which later became the Conference on Disarmament).
5 Aug. 1963
Partial (or Limited) Test Ban Treaty, banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, signed (entered into force 10 Oct. 1963). The preamble states that the parties are 'seeking to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time' and are determined to continue 'negotiations' to this end.
16 Oct. 1964
First Chinese nuclear test.
1 July 1968
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed (entered into force 5 March 1970). The preamble reaffirms the statement in the preamble to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (see above).
9 May 1973
Australia and New Zealand institute proceedings against France in the International Court of Justice in connection with the French nuclear tests in the Pacific
8 May 1974
First and only Indian nuclear test.
8 June 1974
France announces it will move to underground testing after its next series of tests.
3 July 1974
Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), agreeing to cease underground nuclear weapon tests having a yield exceeding 150 kilotons, signed by USSR and USA. (This Treaty did not enter into force until December 1990. See this chronology 1 June 1990).
20 Dec. 1974
The International Court of Justice finds that, since France has announced its intention to cease atmospheric testing, the objective of Australia and New Zealand in instituting proceedings against France has been achieved and the claim of the applicants no longer has any objective.
28 May 1976
Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET) signed. (This Treaty did not enter into force until December 1990. See this chronology 1 June 1990).
3 Oct. 1977
Negotiations on nuclear test ban begin in Geneva between USSR, USA and UK (France and China refuse to take part).
  • Main contentious issue: stockpile reliability.
12 Nov. 1980
Geneva talks suspended following Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (negotiations formally broken off by the US on 20 July 1982).
21 April 1982
Ad hoc Committee on Nuclear Test Ban established to discuss and define issues of verification and compliance relating to a CTB.
6 Aug. 1985
USSR begins unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, aimed at encouraging resumption of negotiations on nuclear testing (this moratorium ceased after 19 months; no other nation had ceased testing).
9 Nov. 1987
US-Soviet negotiations begin on nuclear test limitations, initially to agree upon verification measures towards ratification of the 1974 TTBT and the 1976 PNET.
8 Dec. 1987
The US and USSR sign the INF Treaty (entered into force 1 June 1988), covering the elimination of their intermediate-range and short-range missiles.
1 June 1990
New Protocols signed for the TTBT and PNET. The two Treaties finally entered into force on 11 December 1990.
17 July 1990
The Conference on Disarmament agrees on a mandate for the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban.
24 Oct. 1990
Last Soviet test.
19 Nov. 1990
Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) signed (entered into force 9 November 1992).
15 July 1991
Last French test until resumption in September 1995.
31 July 1991
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed (entered into force 5 December 1994).
5 Oct. 1991
Soviet President Gorbachev announces a one year moratorium on testing.
26 Oct. 1991
Russian President Yeltsin endorses the moratorium announced on 5 October 1991 (the moratorium still continues).
26 Nov. 1991
Last UK test.
8 April 1992
French President Mitterand announces a suspension of French testing until the end of 1992 (the moratorium continued until Sept. 1995).
23 Sept. 1992
Last US test.
25 Sept. 1992
Chinese test.
2 Oct. 1992
US President Bush signs into law the Hatfield amendment, attached to Water and Energy Legislation, imposing a testing moratorium until 1 July 1993 and limiting US tests to 15 before a permanent cessation in 1996.
15 Nov. 1992
The Aust.-NZ-Mexican CTBT resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly 136 in favour, 1 opposed (US) and 4 abstentions (UK, France, China, Israel).
3 Jan. 1993
The second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) signed.
13 Jan. 1993
President Mitterand extends the French moratorium indefinitely.
23 April 1993
President Clinton announces that the US will begin consultations with Russia, US allies and other states aimed at beginning negotiations towards a multilateral test ban treaty.
3 July 1993
President Clinton announces that the US will extend its current moratorium on nuclear testing at least until September 1994, provided that no other nation tests before that time.
5 July 1993
President Yeltsin signs a decree extending the Russian testing moratorium as long as no other country conducts a nuclear test. He also instructs the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin consultations with the other nuclear powers as soon as possible about negotiating a CTBT.
July 1993
US commences consultations with the other nuclear weapon states plus Germany, Japan and India concerning a CTBT.
10 Aug. 1993
The Conference on Disarmament agrees to the Nuclear Test Ban Ad Hoc Committee beginning negotiations on a CTBT from the start of the 1994 session. The decision was modelled on a draft decision submitted by Australia, Mexico and Nigeria.
5 Oct. 1993
Chinese test.
16 Dec. 1993
UN General Assembly adopts by consensus a resolution, sponsored by Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, calling for negotiation of a CTBT.
25 Jan. 1994
CTBT negotiations begin in the Conference on Disarmament.
3 Feb. 1994
CTBT negotiations begin in the Conference on Disarmament's Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban.
14 March 1994
President Clinton extends the US moratorium until at least September 1995.
30 March 1994
Australia presents draft treaty text to the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban.
10 June 1994
Chinese test.
5 Sept. 1994
Conference on Disarmament's Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban, in its report to the Conference on Disarmament, produces CTBT rolling text.
7 Oct. 1994
Chinese test. China says it will end tests when negotiations on a CTBT are completed.
15 Dec. 1994
For the second year running, UN General Assembly adopts (with the P5 among the co-sponsors for the first time) a consensus resolution calling on the 'conclusion without delay' of CTBT negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament.
30 Jan. 1995
US extends its moratorium until the CTBT enters into force, on the assumption that the Treaty will be signed before 30 September 1996; and withdraws its proposal for a right to special withdrawal from the CTBT after ten years.
2 Feb. 1995
Conference on Disarmament's Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban resumes negotiations on a CTBT.
17 April 1995
NPT Review and Extension Conference begins in New York.
11 May 1995
NPT Extension Conference's consensus document 'Principles and Objectives' includes a commitment to complete a CTBT 'no later than 1996', plus a direction that:
'Pending the entry into force of a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, the nuclear-weapon States should exercise utmost restraint.'
15 May 1995
Chinese test.
13 June 1995
President Chirac announces a series of eight tests to be carried out between September 1995 and May 1996 at Mururoa Atoll (in face six tests were held).
11 August 1995
President Clinton announces that the USA will pursue a zero-yield CTB, with even Hydronuclear Tests being excluded.
17 August 1995
Chinese test.
21 August 1995
New Zealand requests the International Court of Justice reactivate the 1973 case on French testing.
22 Sept. 1995
The International Court of Justice rejects the New Zealand request to reopen the 1973 case.
Sept. 1995 to Jan. 1996
Six French tests:
5 Sept. 1995
1 Oct. 1995
27 Oct. 1995
21 Nov. 1995
27 Dec. 1995
27 Jan. 1996
29 Feb. 1996
Australia tables 'model treaty text' in Conference on Disarmament.
8 June 1996
China's 44th test. Announcement that after one more test in September, China would commence a moratorium.

Glossary

Hydronuclear Experiment
A test in which part of the plutonium or highly enriched uranium in a nuclear device is replaced by passive material i.e. natural uranium or depleted uranium. A small number of atoms fission, and the resulting yield is extremely small, around two kilograms of TNT equivalent.
Nuclear Weapon States
Refers to the five declared nuclear weapon powers, the USA, Russia, the UK, France and China.
Peaceful Nuclear Explosion
Application of a nuclear explosion for non-military purposes such as digging canals or harbours or creating underground cavities. The USA terminated its PNE programme in the 1970s. The USSR conducted its last PNE in 1988.
Threshold Nuclear States
States which are not declared nuclear powers but which have the capacity to assemble nuclear weapons on short notice.

The following four verification technologies form the International Monitoring System:

Seismic monitoring
Operates through a network of seismic stations and arrays detecting low-frequency seismic waves. An international seismic network is the core of the verification regime. Explosions as low as one kiloton yield can be detected reliably.
Hydroacoustic monitoring
A method of detecting nuclear explosions detonated at sea by means of a network of acoustic sensors.
Infrasound monitoring
Utilises sensitive barometric arrays to pick up pressure waves in the atmosphere.
Radionuclide monitoring
Involves the extraction of the products of nuclear tests from the atmosphere by large volume air sampling.
 
 

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