August 13th 2003
As Palau signs up, US leaves door open to nuke testing
Yesterday Palau joined the atomic testban club, being the 168th nation to sign-up. On August 7th US State Secretary Colin Powell declared that the US does not exclude further atomic testing in the future.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions, for military or civil purposes. After three years of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the CTBT was adopted on 10 September 1996 by the United Nations General Assembly and opened for signature on 24 September 1996.
Under the terms of the treaty, all forty-four countries with nuclear power plants must sign and ratify before it becomes legally binding, or "enters into force". Twelve of the forty-four have not yet ratified it (August 13th), including the US and Israel. Three have not even signed it: India, Pakistan and North-Korea. These countries especially point to the US which is itself not honouring its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, including complete and global nuclear disarmament and strong reluctance to shut down its nuclear test site.
Since July 1997, the US has conducted subcritical experiments at the test site to check the safety and reliability of weapons without causing nuclear explosions.
After decades of widespread public support for a comprehensive test ban, the actual treaty was rejected by the US Senate in the fall of 1999. More recently, the United States skipped a U.N. conference on the subject, which this explanation from State Department spokesperson Eliza Koch: "The purpose of this conference is to promote ratification of the treaty, and the administration has made it clear that it has no plans to ask the Senate to reconsider its 1999 vote on this issue."
Bush fumed against the test ban treaty repeatedly during his election campaign, alleging that it undermined national security. His father put the current moratorium on nuclear testing into place as a pre-election ploy in 1992. But Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney have been less coy. Both have argued that the United States needs to resume nuclear testing to ensure the reliability of the Pentagon's nuclear weapons cache.
Lately US proposals to shorten preparation time to resume nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site were circulating and further undermining the CTBT.
However on July 16th 2003 a Republican led House panel rejected $25 million requested to shorten the lead-time necessary to resume underground nuclear bomb testing from the current 36 months to 18 months, should the president determine that testing, which has been suspended since 1992, be resumed.
On July 31st 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would continue to refrain from nuclear tests only if other nuclear powers do not conduct them either. Putin s comment appeared to imply a warning to the Bush administration, which is currently seeking funds from Congress to reduce the time needed to restart full-scale underground testing. (Source Moscow Times)
On August 7th Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that a resumption of U.S. nuclear testing could not be ruled out forever but there was no need to test now.
On August 12th 2003 Palau signed the Treaty, adding up to 168 states having signed the CTBT, while 104 ratified it. An international conference aimed at speeding up the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will be held from September 8-12 in Vienna. FME will monitor and try to be present at the conference in Vienna.
For more information: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/ctbt/ctbtindex.html
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