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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

As a review cycle began for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), old divisions quickly re-emerged that will challenge efforts to reach a successful outcome at the 2020 review conference of states-parties to the NPT.

Diplomats at the initial UN meeting to prepare for the review conference voiced support for a number of disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, but stumbled on familiar obstacles, namely the pace of disarmament and how to advance the initiative for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, addresses the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna, as Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, the committee chairman, looks on. (Photo caption: Agata Wozniak/ UNIS Vienna)The 2020 review conference assumes additional importance following the failure of the 2015 review conference to produce a consensus document and the growing frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states at the lack of action by nuclear powers, particularly the United States and Russia, to deliver on their legally binding disarmament obligations under the 1968 treaty. A second consecutive failure would risk weakening the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, including efforts to block nuclear weapons activities by Iran and North Korea.

The May 2-12 preparatory committee meeting, chaired by Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, is the first of three conferences leading up to the 2020 review conference. “At the start of a review cycle, one is almost under an obligation to be positive—to see the glass, at least, as half-full,” Dell Higgie, New Zealand’s ambassador for disarmament, told the meeting May 2, while adding, “To suggest that optimism should be the order of the day is not, however, to minimize the challenges we face.”

The next preparatory committee meeting will take place in Geneva in 2018 and will be chaired by Adam Bugajski, Poland’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The review conference likely will be chaired by Rafael Grossi, Argentina’s ambassador to Austria and to international organizations in Vienna.

The preparatory committee discussions covered the three pillars of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. On many issues, there was general agreement.

Many states expressed support for convening a panel of experts on a fissile material cutoff treaty; continuing implementation of the nuclear deal involving Iran; IAEA safeguards, including comprehensive safeguard agreements and the IAEA Model Additional Protocol; the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under Article IV of the treaty; and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was specifically endorsed in a joint appeal by Japan, Kazakhstan, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

The preparatory committee also was united in condemning North Korea’s continued nuclear weapons and missile testing. “Such brazen disregard for international norms and binding obligations is unprecedented in the history of the NPT,” said South Korean Ambassador Kim In-chul on May 8.

The U.S. priority was to show international resolve against North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said at an April 28 news conference. Sixty-two states condemned North Korea’s actions in a statement submitted May 10 by France and South Korea. The declaration, however, did not deter North Korea from conducting another launch test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on May 14.

The pace of disarmament and how to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East—the two issues that have obstructed past NPT review cycles—continued to elicit disagreement in the 2017 preparatory commission. Many non-nuclear-weapon states consider that the nuclear disarmament pace is too slow, alleging that nuclear-weapon states have failed to fulfill obligations under Article VI of the NPT to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” Nuclear-weapon states contend that they have made progress on disarmament in the past decades and advocate a “step-by-step” approach of pursuing practical disarmament initiatives dependent on the security environment.

Ban Treaty

The tensions on this issue are playing out in UN negotiations, involving about 130 countries, which aim to complete a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons by July 7 (see "Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft", this issue). The nuclear-weapon countries and most U.S. defense treaty allies are boycotting the negotiations.

The division on the ban treaty was particularly apparent during the critiques of the chairman’s summary on the final day of the conference. Strong supporters of the ban treaty, such as Ireland and South Africa, regretted that the issue did not feature more prominently, while the United Kingdom explained that it could not support the summary due to its reference to the nuclear ban.

U.S. Ambassador Robert A. Wood, U.S. permanent represen­tative to the Conference on Disarmament, presents the U.S. statement May 2 at the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna. (Photo caption: U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna)Russia also rejected the ban negotiations. “The conceptual framework of the negotiation process, which in effect ignores the strategic context and addresses the elimination of nuclear weapons in isolation from existing realities, is unacceptable for us,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said in a May 5 statement.

States were split on how to advance a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, which has been a sticking point among NPT states-parties since the 1995 review and extension conference, when they adopted a resolution calling for practical steps to adopt such a zone. At the 2010 review conference, NPT states-parties put forward five steps in the final document to achieve the WMD-free zone, including the convening of a conference in 2012 on the issue. Unable to reach agreement on an agenda for that conference, the conveners, which included Russia, the UK, and the United States, announced in November 2012 that the meeting, originally scheduled for December, would be postponed. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Disagreement over the WMD-free zone stymied the 2015 review conference. States-parties failed to pass a final consensus document because Canada, the UK, and the United States rejected text proposed by Egypt, which was reflected in the final document, calling for new deadlines to reach agreement on an agenda for advancing the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. (See ACT, June 2015.) Egypt’s push to include this text in the final document caused a rift among Arab League members, many of whom disagreed with Egypt’s proposal.

The splintering of the Arab League continued into the 2017 preparatory committee, at which the Arab League did not present a unified statement. Egypt, Iran, and a group of 12 Arab League members, including Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, each offered separate working papers on advancing the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Egypt’s working paper expresses concern over the lack of implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and demands that the next review cycle call on Israel to join the NPT.

In its working paper, the group of 12 Arab League states, not including Egypt, also recommended that Israel join the NPT, but emphasized that a conference on the WMD-free zone should take place under the auspices of the three depositories of the treaty: Russia, the UK, and the United States. Russia also criticized the lack of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and submitted its own working paper to advance the convening of a conference before the 2020 review conference on the issue.

‘Misguided Attempts’

The United States stated that the conditions necessary for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone do not currently exist, adding that “misguided attempts to coerce an outcome, or to hold the NPT review process hostage, indicate a misunderstanding of the function and purpose of weapons-free zones.”

In a new development in the NPT review cycles, there were calls from many states for more gender equality in disarmament forums. Ireland submitted a working paper on the subject, and the European Union stated that “promotion of gender equality, gender consciousness and empowerment of women remains a key priority for the EU, including in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.” Australia, in a May 10 statement, pointed out that there were too few female delegates at the preparatory committee. 

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft

 

Updated June 13 to clarify Article 4 provisions for nuclear-weapon states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The first draft of a landmark treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, released May 22, set the stage for pivotal efforts to conclude a treaty document by the July 7 deadline established by the UN General Assembly.

The draft by Elayne Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva and president of the negotiating conference on the ban treaty, reflects the areas of broad agreement during the first round of negotiations in March at the United Nations in New York. It leaves out several controversial proposals that states will likely debate when talks resume June 15.

A computer displays the symbol of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at the UN Conference to negotiate a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty in New York March 31. (Photo credit: Manuel Elias/UN Photo)The envisioned treaty reflects an historic effort to shift international norms against the acquisition, possession, and potential use of nuclear weapons. The international effort is pressed by non-nuclear-weapons states and rejected by nuclear-armed countries that see the ban as impractical and potentially destabilizing if it undermines nuclear deterrence.

The initiative is driven by growing recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the rising risk of accidental or intentional nuclear use, and the frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. The pace of disarmament was a critical point of contention at the May 2-12 meeting of preparatory committee for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, where many states alleged that nuclear-weapons states have failed to fulfill their NPT Article VI obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith towards complete disarmament.

Following the recommendation of the last of three open-ended working groups on disarmament, the UN General Assembly First Committee on disarmament voted in October 2016 to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (see ACT, November 2016). During the last week of March, about 130 non-nuclear-weapon states engaged in the first round of negotiations (see ACT, May 2017).

In March, states agreed on many of the prohibitions in the draft, including on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use and transfer of nuclear weapons, as well as on assistance with any prohibited activities. The prohibition on testing was the most controversial element included in the draft text, in part because of debate over whether it might inadvertently undermine the existing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Other contested prohibitions—on the threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as on transit and financing—were left out pending further negotiations.

The text does not call for states-parties to adopt the stricter verification requirements embodied in the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol which some states, such as Sweden and Switzerland, advocated for in March.

The draft treaty outlines verification provisions for states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

Verification of disarmament by any former nuclear-weapons state that does so before the treaty’s entry into force for it will be determined by an agreement between the state and the IAEA. This clause only pertains to states that possessed nuclear weapons after 2001, thereby exempting several post-Soviet states, including Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which dismantled their arsenals before that date.

In a so called non-paper, Whyte Gomez identifies a path for accession of nuclear weapons states to the treaty following the model of South Africa’s accession to the NPT; nuclear weapons states could dismantle their nuclear arsenals and then sign the treaty, accepting verification provisions under the treaty.

Ban treaty advocates hailed the draft as a clear and strong basis for a nuclear-weapons prohibition but treaty skeptics raised questions about the text’s uncertain relationship to existing nonproliferation treaties. In an effort to dispel concerns that the new treaty will contradict the NPT, the draft text declares that the ban treaty will not influence the “rights and obligations” of states under the NPT.
 

However, some experts claim the NPT allows for temporary and limited nuclear possession, and thus a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would inherently infringe upon the NPT rights of nuclear-weapons states. Ban advocates counter that the NPT does not allow for the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and therefore the two treaties are compatible.

Some are concerned that the prohibition of testing of nuclear weapons in the draft text does not include a reference to the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of sensors which detect nuclear explosions. Duplicating language from the CTBT, which bans nuclear testing, without referencing the IMS could undermine that treaty, they argue.

Concerns and criticisms will be aired when negotiators take up the draft text in the second round of negotiations. According to a timetable circulated in late March, the first two days will be dedicated to a general discussion of the draft. During the following week, states will examine the text thematically, with separate negotiating sessions devoted to the preamble, positive obligations, core prohibitions, implementation and institutional arrangements and universality and final provisions. Additional time is reserved for consultations. On June 23, states will determine the organization of the remainder of the negotiations.

The United States, along with most NATO allies, and other nuclear-weapons states are expected to continue to boycott the proceedings.

“Almost all the nuclear armed states put pressure on smaller countries to not participate, to not attend, and there will be even more pressure when the time for signing the treaty comes,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in a May 16 interview with Arms Control Today. “I think that is going to continue. It’s not going to get easier for us. But I don’t think it’s going to get easier for them to ignore the treaty either. It’s moving forward whether or not they like it.”


 

Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Key Elements

Preamble

The preamble references the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, the suffering of victims of nuclear use and testing, international and humanitarian law, the UN Charter, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Article 1: Core Prohibitions

Article 1 prohibits acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, transfer, testing, stationing, installment, and deployment of nuclear weapons and assistance with prohibited activities. The draft text does not include prohibitions on threat of use, transit, and financing of nuclear weapons, but states will debate whether to include them during the final round of negotiations.

Article 3 and Annex: Safeguards

Article 3 and the annex state that safeguards should be the same as required in connection with the NPT. States are not required to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement.

Article 4: Verification

Article 4 pertains to states-parties that had nuclear weapons after 2001 but will have eliminated them before the prohibition treaty enters into force for those states. These states must conclude an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify the elimination of their arsenals. This clause does not cover Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, the former Soviet states that eliminated their arsenals before 2001.

Article 5: Other Disarmament Provisions

Article 5 suggests that other effective measures relating to nuclear disarm­ament that are not covered by Article 4 be considered in future meetings of states-parties or review conferences.

Article 6: Victim Assistance

Article 6 asserts that states-parties “in a position to do so” should provide assistance to individual victims of nuclear testing or use on their territory and that states that were victims of nuclear use or testing by other states should also receive assistance. Environmental remediation is included.

Article 9: Meeting of States-Parties

The first meeting of states-parties will take place within one year of entry into force and biennially thereafter.

Article 16: Entry Into Force

The ban treaty will enter into force 90 days after ratification by the 40th state.

Article 17: Reservations

No reservations to articles are allowed.

Article 18: Withdrawal

The treaty is of “unlimited duration,” but withdrawal is permitted and would take effect three months after the notice is received.

Article 19: Relationship to NPT

Article 19 states that the prohibition treaty does not impact the “rights and obligations” of states-parties to the NPT.

Nonpaper: Accession of Nuclear-Weapon States to the Treaty

The nonpaper submitted by Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who authored the draft treaty, presents a model for nuclear-weapon states to accede to the treaty: disarm first and then sign the treaty, referenced during the first round of negotiations as “South Africa-plus” because it is modeled after South Africa’s accession to the NPT. 

Congress Limits Warhead Dismantlement

Congress Limits Warhead Dismantlement

June 2017

By Kingston Reif

Long opposed to the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons risk reduction agenda, the Republican-controlled Congress voted in May to prevent the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) from implementing the former administration’s proposal to accelerate the rate of dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads.

Congress approved $56 million for nuclear warhead dismantlement and disposition activities, a reduction of $13 million, or 19 percent, from the Obama administration’s proposal of $69 million in its final budget request. The funding provision is part of the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law on May 5. Fiscal year 2017 started on Oct. 1, 2016, and runs until Sept. 30.

When a warhead is retired and removed from the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department, takes the weapon apart to ensure that it can never be used again. The transition from retirement to disassembly can take years and involves a number of steps and facilities.

In a January speech in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden stated that the Obama administration dismantled 2,226 warheads during its eight years in office. Biden also said that the queue of warheads awaiting dismantlement stood at 2,800 warheads as of September 2016.

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request included funds to begin accelerating the rate of dismantlement by 20 percent pursuant to an announcement made by Secretary of State John Kerry in April 2015 at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in New York to further demonstrate the administration’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

But a number of Republican members of Congress strongly opposed the proposal, calling it unilateral disarmament.

The fiscal year 2017 national defense authorization act signed by President Barack Obama last December sets an annual limit of $56 million for NNSA dismantlement expenditures in fiscal years 2017 to 2021 and prohibits spending beyond that amount unless a number of stringent conditions can be met. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

Although the House and Senate appropriations committees last year approved the Obama administration’s request to accelerate the dismantlement rate, the final funding level in the omnibus bill follows the direction in the defense authorization bill.

The omnibus bill also includes a policy provision prohibiting the use of fiscal year 2016 funds “to reduce or to prepare to reduce” the number of deployed and nondeployed U.S. strategic nuclear delivery systems below the levels the Pentagon has said it will retain as it adjusts its forces to meet the requirements of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the treaty’s implementation deadline of 2018.

The Obama administration last year considered reducing the size of the deployed arsenal below New START levels, but ultimately decided not to do so. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

Defense Spending Increased

The omnibus appropriations bill is a nearly $1.2 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. For the first seven months of the fiscal year, Congress passed a series of continuing resolutions that extended funding for most discretionary governmental programs at the previous year’s levels, although several programs, including nuclear weapons programs, received fresh funding at the fiscal year 2017 request level.

The bill includes $14.8 billion of the extra $30 billion in spending requested by the Trump administration in March. The administration requested the funds as a supplement to the Obama administration’s original budget submission.

Congress included the additional funds in the Defense Department’s overseas contingency operations account, which is nominally used to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Syria but in fact also funds other defense programs, as the account is not limited by the 2011 Budget Control Act. That act places limits on discretionary spending, including military spending.

The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2018, released on May 23, includes a total of $603 billion for national defense, which includes the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs. This is an increase of $54 billion above the budget cap in effect for fiscal year 2018 and $19 billion, or 3 percent, above the projected spending level for fiscal year 2018 contained in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 request.

Nuclear Modernization

The omnibus bill largely supports the Obama administration’s proposed funding increases for programs to sustain and to rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The bill includes the requested amounts of $1.9 billion for the Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacement program, an increase of $360 million above the fiscal year 2016 appropriation; $114 million for the Air Force’s effort to develop a replacement for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, an increase of almost $39 million over 2016; and $96 million for a new fleet of nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), almost six times as much as Congress appropriated last year.

The bill funds the nuclear-capable B-21 “Raider” bomber program at $1.3 billion, a small reduction of $20 million below the budget request level. The bill also includes a provision calling on the Defense Department’s inspector general to review the secrecy of the program.

The Air Force has refused to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015 to develop the B-21 and the estimated total cost of the bomber program, citing classification concerns.

The bill also provides $9.3 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the NNSA, an increase of $399 million, or 4.5 percent, above the fiscal year 2016 appropriation. The appropriation for weapons activities includes $223 million to begin refurbishing the existing ALCM warhead and $616 million for the B61 nuclear gravity bomb life extension program.

GMD System Gets Boost

The omnibus bill provides $968 million in research and development funding for the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system designed to protect the United States against a limited ICBM attack from North Korea or Iran, an increase of $106 million above the budget request level of $862 million. The increase restores funding to the level the Obama administration planned to request for fiscal year 2017 in its fiscal year 2016 budget submission.

The GMD system consists of interceptor sites in Alaska and California supported by radars and sensors around the globe and in space.

Overall, the bill provides approximately $8.2 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $700 million above the Obama administration request.

MOX Construction Continues

Congress provided the NNSA with $335 million to continue construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, rejecting the Obama administration’s proposal to end the project. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The MOX fuel program is designed to turn surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into fuel for power reactors.

The U.S. effort to dispose of its plutonium via the MOX fuel path has suffered from large cost increases and schedule delays that put the project in jeopardy, prompting the Obama administration to propose ending the program and instead pursue an alternative approach. The alternative “dilute and dispose” process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal in a repository. That approach can be implemented decades sooner at a much lower cost and with fewer risks, according to the Energy Department. (See ACT, June 2015.)

Despite the Energy Department’s efforts to terminate the MOX fuel project, Congress, led by the delegation from South Carolina, has refused to abandon it. Nonetheless, the bill provides $15 million, the same as the budget request and an increase of $10 million over the fiscal year 2016 level, to complete design activities for the dilute-and-dispose alternative.

Overall, the bill includes $1.9 billion for NNSA fissile material security and nonproliferation efforts, an increase of $75 million above the budget request and a decrease of $57 million from the current level.

U.S. Waives Sanctions Under Iran Deal

U.S. Waives Sanctions Under Iran Deal

A supporter of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who backed the nuclear deal with world powers, celebrates in Tehran after he won the presidential election on May 20. (Photo credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)The Trump administration renewed sanctions waivers on Iran, meeting requirements under the July 2015 nuclear deal between the United States and its negotiating partners and Iran. The May 17 waivers are the first by President Donald Trump to maintain U.S. compliance with the agreement he has repeatedly denounced. Most sanctions waivers must be renewed every 120 days, and President Barack Obama issued waivers shortly before leaving office in January. If Iran continues to comply, these sanctions could be lifted statutorily by 2023. The waivers follow a certification by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in April that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the deal. The certification to Congress is required by U.S. law.

In the press release announcing the waivers, the State Department said that the Treasury Department was sanctioning additional Iranian entities and a Chinese network for suppling items applicable to ballistic missile development to Iran, which is “inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231.” The resolution, passed in July 2015, endorsed the nuclear deal and lifted some UN sanctions, but called on Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. Iran has continued to test ballistic missiles, arguing that the systems are not designed for nuclear warheads.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

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U.S. Support for the CTBTO Enhances U.S. and Global Security

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Description: 

According to the FY2018 budget outline, the Trump administration will seek funding cuts in the U.S. contribution for the CTBTO, the intergovernmental organization responsible for the global nuclear test monitoring system designed to detect and deter clandestine nuclear explosions.

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Volume 9, Issue 2, May 2017

At a time when it is more important than ever to reinforce the global norm against nuclear test explosions and to maintain global capabilities to detect nuclear weapons testing by other countries, the Donald Trump administration is proposing severe budget cutbacks at the State Department, including U.S. contributions to key international organizations.
 
According to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget outline released by the Trump administration in February, his administration “seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, are duplicative, or are not well-managed.” No further detail or explanation was provided.
 
The Trump administration is expected to release its full budget request the week of May 22.
 
These funding cuts could include a reduction in the U.S. contribution for the intergovernmental organization responsible for the global nuclear test monitoring system designed to detect and deter clandestine nuclear explosions, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
 
Such funding cuts would run counter to the value placed on this contribution by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who joined with his G7 foreign ministerial counterparts to extoll the value of the CTBTO in their April 11 joint communique on nonproliferation and disarmament. They said in part:

We believe that all States should maintain all existing voluntary moratoria on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and those States that have not instituted such moratoria should do so.
 
The verification regime being established by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, in particular the International Monitoring System and International Data Centre, has proven its effectiveness by providing substantive and reliable data on the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea. We strongly encourage all interested States to complete the IMS as a matter of priority.

The statement also recalls UN Security Council Resolution 2310 (passed September 23, 2016) —which calls on all states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), refrain from nuclear testing, and provide support for the CTBTO. The resolution also notes the contribution of the CTBT to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Past U.S. Support and Results

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats vote to adopt the resolution in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty during a UN Security Council meeting September 23. (Photo credit: Astrid Riecken/CTBTO) The final omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2017 fully funds the Obama administration’s final budget request of $32 million for the U.S. contribution to the CTBT International Monitoring System (IMS) and CTBTO. This is in line with the United States’ longstanding support for the CTBT, which was formally established in 1997.
 
The CTBTO was established with the support of the United States and the other 182 signatories of the CTBT to build, operate, and maintain a robust IMS and International Data Center to detect and deter nuclear weapon test explosions, which are banned by the treaty.
 
Today the IMS is more than 90% complete and is collecting and analyzing information on a continuous 24/7 basis for the purpose of detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear test explosions and to provide the technical basis for international responses to noncompliance.
 
The CTBTO provides additional nuclear test detection capabilities beyond U.S. national means of intelligence and is a neutral source of information that can mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing.
 
The total annual budget of the CTBTO was about  $128 million for 2016. The United States provides 22.47% of the CTBTO’s funding. Over the years, the United States has also made voluntary, in-kind contributions including for the operation and maintenance costs of all IMS facilities in the United States and support to the software development for the International Data Center, which analyzes the global monitoring data for nuclear testing activity. These in-kind contributions are valued at more than $5 million USD in 2015 and $9 million in 2016.
 
Although United States signed the CTBT in 1996 and has not conducted a nuclear test explosion in 25 years, the United States is one of eight remaining states that must ratify the treaty in order to allow for its formal entry into force.

The Illogic of the Treaty’s Critics

Unfortunately, a small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the CTBTO and undermine international support for the CTBT and the global nuclear test moratorium.
 
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
 
The Cotton and Wilson bill  purports not to restrict U.S. funding specifically for the IMS, but in practice any significant reduction in U.S. technical and financial support for the CTBTO would:

  • adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS. This includes staff time and technical support for the International Data Centre in Vienna, which processes information provided by IMS operations; and
  • prompt other states to restrict their funding for the CTBTO or possibly withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing.

The bill also seeks to undermine the U.S. obligation—as a signatory to the CTBT—not to conduct nuclear test explosions. It calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council resolution does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.
 
Contrary to what the Cotton/Wilson bill implies, Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, UNSC 2310:

  • encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so; and
  • also takes note of the September 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 

So long as the United States remains a signatory of the CTBT, it is legally obliged not to take actions that would defeat its object and purpose. In other words, like all other 183 signatories, it shall not conduct a nuclear test explosion.
 
However, if Congress were to adopt the Cotton-Wilson bill asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory not to test, it would signal to other states that that the United States is seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear weapons testing.
 
That’s not a smart move. With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the global nuclear testing taboo
 
Backing off our historically strong commitment to ending nuclear testing at this time could trigger a dangerous chain reaction by other nuclear-armed states and would run afoul of key U.S. allies who strongly oppose nuclear testing and who support the CTBT. Continuing to fund the U.S. contribution to detect and deter nuclear weapons testing enhances national and international security.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director

The P5+1 And Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, May 5

Joint Commission Meets to Review Iran Deal The Joint Commission set up by Iran and the P5+1 to review implementation of the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) met April 25 in Vienna. This was the first regularly scheduled quarterly meeting of the group since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. The meeting provided the opportunity to discuss progress on the Arak reactor modernization project, civil nuclear cooperation developments, and sanctions relief, according to the chair’s statement released after the discussion. The statement also said that “...

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