Has the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty made the world safer?

Vienna – AFP

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, 25 years after its adoption, has made the world safer, experts say, despite its lack of ratification and concerns about North Korea.

The Americans carried out the world’s first nuclear test in the desert of New Mexico in 1945. Between that date and September 24, 1996, the date of the adoption of the treaty, more than two thousand nuclear tests were conducted, according to Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the authority of the United Nations.

Since 1996, only about a dozen tests have been conducted from India, North Korea and Pakistan. However, eight countries with nuclear programs, including China, North Korea and the United States, have refused to ratify the landmark treaty, preventing its entry into force. Despite mounting pressure, there are no indications that these countries will change their minds, according to analysts.

“We are in a much better position,” said Floyd, a 63-year-old Australian, from his seventh-floor office in one of the United Nations towers in Vienna.

He explains that the treaty sets an international standard to prevent testing, adding: “The only country that has conducted a test this century is North Korea.”

To ensure that nuclear tests are not conducted, the organization, with an annual budget of about 111 million euros, has set up more than 300 monitoring stations in the world, capable of monitoring the slightest detonation when it occurs.

The treaty effectively halts the spread of nuclear weapons “by making testing prohibited,” says Jean-Marie Colin of the French branch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

So far, about 170 countries have ratified the treaty, including nuclear powers Britain, France and Russia, given that they have sufficiently advanced simulation programs.

The countries that have not yet ratified it are Egypt, India, Iran and Israel, in addition to China, North Korea and the United States.

And Floyd said, he wants to communicate with those countries about the path we can take to get from our current point to a point where they can ratify the treaty, and for all of humanity we can get to a legally binding ban.

If the treaty enters into force, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization has the power to conduct site-specific inspections.

In Washington, no one since former President Bill Clinton has dared present the text to Congress, because Republicans oppose its signature, says Emmanuel Mitter of the Foundation for Strategic Research.

For its part, Beijing says it is waiting for Washington.

According to Mitter, it is difficult to know how North Korea would accede to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, if the United States and China did not join it.

Last January, another international treaty related to nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, entered into force.

This agreement prohibits the 45 countries that have ratified it, from producing or even possessing nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices. For Floyd, it is an indication of the growing resentment of countries that do not possess nuclear weapons, and want to see progress in the field of nuclear disarmament.


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