I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb.

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College (Takoma Park, Maryland)
July 1, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: Strengthening Checks on Presidential Nuclear Launch Authority



New Analysis Published in Arms Control Today

For Immediate Release: January 4, 2018

Media Contacts: Brett Adams, Princeton University, 516-841-1105; Daryl G. Kimball, publisher, Arms Control Today, 202-463-8270 x107.

(Washington, DC)—Bipartisan concerns about President Donald Trump’s temperament, loose talk about nuclear weapons, and bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea have prompted renewed interest in and questioning of U.S. nuclear launch protocol, which gives the president the sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, hundreds of which are available for prompt launch.

Last November, for the first time in over 40 years, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the subject of nuclear weapons launch authority.

In a new article published in the forthcoming journal Arms Control Today, Bruce Blair, a member of the Princeton University research faculty, cofounder of the organization Global Zero, and a former Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launch officer, provides an authoritative summary of current U.S. nuclear launch protocol and its dangerous liabilities. The article includes new information about the process, including who is involved and how a nuclear use order would be executed.

Blair also offers several possible reforms to the current protocol to provide the president with more warning and decision time and reduce the risks of faulty decision making.

The article comes after Trump reacted to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s annual new year’s day address by tweeting: “Will someone from his [Kim Jong-Un’s] depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but that it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works.”

In the article, titled “Strengthening Checks on Presidential Nuclear Launch Authority,” Blair writes that “[m]ajor changes are needed to constrain a president who would seek to initiate the first use of nuclear weapons without apparent cause and to prevent him or her from being pushed into making nuclear retaliatory decisions in haste.”

“No single reform suffices,” writes Blair. “A combination of reforms is needed to reduce the risk.”

The reforms proposed by Blair include altering the current prompt-launch posture, adding more people to the chain of command, greater congressional involvement, and re-evaluating the legality of nuclear war plans.

Blair’s article will appear in the January/February 2018 issue of Arms Control Today.


New Analysis Published in Arms Control Today

U.S. and Russia Should Avoid Escalation and Commit to Resolve Lingering INF Treaty Dispute



Statement by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed 30 years ago today, eliminated an entire class of destabilizing U.S. and Soviet nuclear-armed weapons and helped end the Cold War. Although the INF Treaty is clearly in the security interests of the United States, Europe, and Russia, the treaty is in jeopardy.

Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among U.S. Pershing II missiles destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a photo taken January 14, 1989. (Photo credit: MSGT Jose Lopez Jr./U.S. Defense Department)

According the U.S. government, Russia has violated the INF Treaty by testing and subsequently deploying a small number of ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with a range between 500 and 5,500 km. Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and has instead raised its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the agreement. This is a serious matter.

Both sides say they support the INF Treaty, but they have not been able to resolve the compliance dispute through the Special Verification Commission (SVC), a technical forum designed to resolve compliance concerns. The U.S. side has requested a second meeting of the SVC on December 12-14 to address the matter once again. This is an important opportunity that both sides must use to bring forward additional details about their concerns, as well as discuss concrete and practical solutions, rather than only exchange complaints and vague allegations.

The Trump administration announced today that it is committed to the INF Treaty and to bringing Russia back into compliance, which is helpful. What is not helpful is its proposal to recommit to the treaty by taking steps that would put the United States on the path to violating it. The administration announced that it is pursuing a tit-for-tat response: the development of new, INF non-compliant conventional missile.

As long as Russia remains in noncompliance with the treaty, the United States should make clear it clear that Russia will not be allowed to gain a military advantage from its violation.

But a symmetric response won’t make the United States or Europe any safer and will only make the problem worse. Earlier this year, the Republican-led Congress opened the door to this escalation of the problem by authorizing a program of record for such a weapons system.

The INF Treaty does not prohibit research or development, but going down this road sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement at some point and it takes the focus off of Russia’s INF violation. Rather than persuading Russia to return to compliance, this action is more likely to give Moscow an excuse to continue on its current course.

New ground-launched intermediate-range missiles are not needed to defend NATO or Northeast Asian allies. U.S. forces are already stocked with formidable air- and sea-launched missiles that can cover the same targets. Furthermore, a new U.S. INF missile would take years to develop and cost billions of dollars that would drain funding from other military programs.

Most importantly, NATO does not support a new missile, and no country has offered to host it. It is thus a missile to nowhere. If the Trump administration tries to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile it would divide the alliance.

Instead, both sides must recommit to resolve this issue and use the existing treaty compliance resolution mechanism, the SVC, to evaluate competing technical claims and ultimately to remove from deployment any INF systems in Russia that do not comply with the treaty.

In addition to working to preserve and strengthen the existing bilateral arms control architecture, including the INF Treaty, the U.S. and Russia should begin to discuss the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which can and should be extended for another five years. These agreements constrain Russia's nuclear forces and provide stability, predictability and transparency. They have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.



Statement by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

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2017 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year Nominees Announced



For Immediate Release: December 8, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext 107; Tony Fleming, director for communications and operations, (202) 463-8270 ext 110.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Each year since 2007, the Arms Control Association has nominated individuals and institutions engaged in advancing effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions and/or raised awareness of the threats posed by mass casualty weapons.

This year’s nominees have, each in their own way, provided leadership to help reduce weapons-related security threats.

Online voting will be open from December 8, 2017, until January 5, 2018. The results will be announced January 8, 2018.

The 2017 nominees are:

  • EU High Representative Federica Mogherini for her steadfast diplomatic campaign on behalf of the European Union to resist attempts by the Trump administration to seek to “renegotiate” the terms of the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Place of Action and for her strong advocacy for full implementation and compliance with the landmark nonproliferation agreement by all parties, especially by the United States and Iran.
  • The disarmament delegations of Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, and Amb. Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica for leading the negotiations on the landmark 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to a successful conclusion in July and opening it for signature on Sept. 20, 2017.
  • The U.S. State Department’s special envoy on North Korea, Amb. Joseph Yun, for his unwavering efforts to establish a sustained diplomatic dialogue with North Korea designed to defuse rising tensions over the country’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs despite skepticism from some quarters in Washington.
  • Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for introducing H.R. 4415, a bill that would make it the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first. In announcing the bill, Smith said:“The United States should not use nuclear arms in a first strike. They are instruments of deterrence, and they should be treated as such. A declaratory policy of not using nuclear weapons first will increase strategic stability, particularly in a crisis, reducing the risk of miscalculation that could lead to an unintended all-out nuclear war.”
  • Pope Francis for his declaration that the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral, completing the Catholic Church’s shift away from conditional acceptance of nuclear deterrence, and for his call for a more inclusive and effective process to advance disarmament through an international conference on “Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Development,” held Nov. 10-11.
  • Members of UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and partners in Iraq for their exceptional work clearing more than 269,000 mines, IEDs, and explosive hazards from locations in Iraq formerly under the control of the Islamic State and instituting a civilian training program to ensure that civilians coming back are able to recognize them.
  • Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) for continuing to call attention to the negative security and humanitarian impact of U.S.-supplied weapons and ammunition in the ongoing Saudi military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. They pushed for a vote in June on a resolution supported by 47 Senators that opposed the provision of more than $500 million in precision-guided weapons to Riyadh.
  • Edmond Mulethead of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism, for overseeing the investigations to determine the responsible actors for chemical weapons attacks in Khan Shaykhun and Umm Hawsh in 2017, thereby strengthening international accountability for chemical weapons use. On Nov. 7, Amb. Mulet, who is from Guatemala, reported to the UN Security Council that his team determined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to be responsible for using sulfur mustard in a September 2016 attack in Umm Hawsh and the Syrian Government to be accountable for the release of sarin in an April 2017 attack in Khan Shaykhun.
  • Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales and a group of more than 137 founders and directors of over 100 robotics and artificial intelligence companies for releasing an open letter warning of the dangers posed by uncontrolled development of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). Representatives from 86 countries participated in the Group of Governmental Experts of LAWS meeting held in Geneva in November and decided to continue their deliberations in 2018.

Previous winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" include: The government of Marshall Islands and its former Foreign Minister Tony de Brum (2016)Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (2015); Austria's Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Ambassador Alexander Kmentt (2014), Executive-Secretary of the CTBTO Lassina Zerbo (2013)Gen. James Cartwright (2012); reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin (2011), Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D'Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010)Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009), Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry's Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008), and U.S.Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).



Since 2007, the Arms Control Association's staff and board of directors has nominated individuals and institutions that have advanced effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions or raised awareness of the threats posed by mass casualty weapons.

New CBO Report Warns of Skyrocketing Costs of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal



Experts Call for Shift to More Cost-Effective Alternatives

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017

Media Contacts:  Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107.

(Washington, D.C.) – A new study published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Tuesday highlights the skyrocketing cost of the current plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several pragmatic options to maintain a credible, formidable deterrent at less cost.

The USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia in 2014. The Navy is planning to replace the Ohio-class submarines, but the cost of the replacement is prompting a debate in Washington. (U.S. Navy)CBO estimates that sustaining and upgrading U.S. nuclear forces will cost taxpayers $1.24 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017 and 2046. When the effects of inflation are included, we project that the 30-year cost will exceed $1.5 trillion. These figures are significantly higher than the previously reported estimates of roughly $1 trillion.   

“The stark reality underlined by CBO is that unless the U.S. government finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the nuclear weapons spending plan inherited by the Trump administration will pose a crushing affordability problem,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

The CBO study comes amid reports that the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which is slated for completion by the end of the year, could propose new types of nuclear weapons and increase their role in U.S. policy.

“If the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review by the administration does not scale-back current nuclear weapons spending plans – or worse, accelerates or expands upon them – expenditures on nuclear weapons will endanger other high priority national security programs,” Reif noted.

The CBO report evaluates roughly a dozen alternatives to the current plans to manage and reduce the mammoth price tag. For example, according to CBO, roughly 15 percent, or nearly $200 billion, of the projected cost of nuclear forces over the next three decades could be saved by trimming back the existing program of record while still maintaining a triad of delivery systems. Additional savings could be found by shifting from a triad to a nuclear dyad. 

“The report blows apart the false choice repeatedly posited by Pentagon officials between the costly ‘all of the above’ plan to maintain and upgrade the nuclear force and doing nothing. There are cost-cutting alternatives that would still maintain a U.S. nuclear force capable of obliterating any potential nuclear adversary,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“The trillion and a half dollar triad is not just unaffordable, it is unnecessary. The United States continues to retain more nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and supporting infrastructure than it needs to deter or respond to a nuclear attack,” Kimball added.

Over the past several years, the Arms Control Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the need and affordability of the current spending plans, argued that these plans pose a threat to other military priorities, and suggested more cost-effective alternatives.

For more information see:


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


A new study published by CBO highlights the skyrocketing cost to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several options to maintain a credible deterrent at less cost.

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Thomas Countryman Elected as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Arms Control Association



Formerly served as Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control
and International Security

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association Board of Directors announced Friday that Thomas Countryman, former Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, has been elected to serve as the chair of the organization's board of directors. The Arms Control Association has been a leading voice in the field of nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament since it was established in 1971. 

Countryman served for 35 years as a member of the Foreign Service until January 2017, achieving the rank of minister-counselor, and served as acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, a position to which he was appointed Oct. 9, 2016. He simultaneously served as assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, a position he had held since September 2011. As acting undersecretary, he advised the Secretary of State on arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament and political-military affairs.

Countryman was elected to join the board of the Arms Control Association in June 2017. Since leaving government and joining the Association’s board, he has spoken on the Association’s concerns in interviews in The Guardian, Voice of America, CNN, and NBC News and has written for The Washington Post and other publications.

"In arms control, as in other fields of public policy,  the role of NGOs is to be an incubator of new policy ideas," Countryman noted. “My commitment to work for a more secure world for our citizens and our descendants led me to join the Board of the Directors of the Arms Control Association and I am honored by the Board’s confidence in electing me as chair.”

“As tensions between nuclear-armed states are increasing, key disarmament pillars are at risk, and public anxiety about the risk of nuclear conflict is growing,"  said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Association since 2001, "we are fortunate to have a proven leader with a depth and breadth of experience serving as our board chair.”

Countryman immediately succeeds as chair Dr. John Steinbruner, a leading international security affairs and arms control scholar, who served from 2000 until his death in 2015. Previous chairs of the Association's board of directors include William C. Foster, former director of the U.S. Arms Control Disarmament Agency, Gerard Smith, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Policy and Planning and lead negotiator of the SALT agreements, and Stanley R. Resor, former Secretary of the Army and lead negotiator on talks with the Soviet Union on conventional arms.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Trump’s Stance on Iran Nuclear Deal Risks Proliferation Crisis




Arms Control Experts Say Efforts to Pressure Iran to Renegotiate Terms of 2015 Agreement Are Irresponsible and Dangerous

For Immediate Release: October 13, 2017

Media Contacts: Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107. 

(Washington, D.C.)—Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association denounced President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to withhold a certification to Congress tied to the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The President’s gambit is irresponsible and dangerous. Any attempt by the White House or Congress to unilaterally change the terms of the highly-successful nuclear deal with Iran risks setting Washington on a course to violate the deal.” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Trump signaled that he will withhold certification because he believes the sanctions relief granted to Iran is not proportional to the restrictions Iran is abiding by under the agreement. He further said he would push for Congress to pass legislation requiring sanctions to snap back into place if Iran does not meet additional limits that are not currently mandated in the JCPOA.

“It is critical that Congress refrain from any actions that would effectively seek to renegotiate the terms of the JCPOA. Any steps seeking to dictate an extension of the JCPOA restrictions or add additional requirements through U.S. legislation will create a major schism with U.S. allies and could push Iran to resume troublesome nuclear activities restricted under the deal,” Kimball said.

“Trump’s plan to unilaterally extend the limits of the current deal by holding Iran hostage to the threat of reimposing U.S. sanctions is a fantasy that jeopardizes an agreement that is verifiably blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy.

“Trump’s pressure-centric approach only risks undercutting Iranian incentives to remain in compliance with the accord and isolating the United States from its negotiating partners, all of whom reject reopening the agreement. With the looming threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, the United States cannot afford to manufacture a second nuclear crisis,” she added.

"If the Trump administration is truly concerned about the future of Iran’s nuclear program, Washington should meet its obligations under the deal, vigorously enforce the accord, and seek global support to build on the innovative nonproliferation elements of the agreement.” Davenport said.

“Trump’s reckless actions have consequences beyond threatening the nuclear deal with Iran. He risks triggering a spiral of proliferation and destabilizing nuclear competition in the region, and beyond,” Kimball added.

For more information see:


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


Arms Control Experts Say Efforts to Pressure Iran to Renegotiate Terms of 2015 Agreement Are Irresponsible and Dangerous

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Arms Control Association Applauds 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Winner ICAN



Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a Turning Point
Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(WASHINGTON, DC)—We are pleased and excited that the Nobel Committee has awarded the 2017 Peace Prize to our colleagues at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Their work in raising awareness about the catastrophic impacts of nuclear weapons and their years-long campaign for the negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has helped to reset the terms of the seven-decade-long struggle to prevent nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons in important and helpful ways.

At a time when nuclear dangers and tensions are rising, ICAN’s call to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons is the appropriate rejoinder to those governments and leaders who continue to promote the role and potential use of these mass terror weapons in the 21st century.

At a result of the TPNW, for the first time since the invention of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and stationing of another country’s nuclear weapons on a states party's national territory are all expressly prohibited in a global treaty. The treaty also requires states to provide assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing. Over time, the TPNW will further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use. Steps aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear weapons use are necessary and should be welcomed.

ICAN was a catalyst for the new treaty, which was negotiated by a group of over 130 non-nuclear weapon states and is an expression of the deep concern about the enormous risks posed by nuclear weapons and the growing frustration with the failure of the nuclear-armed states to fulfill their nuclear disarmament commitments. The initiative underscores the need for the nuclear weapons states’ to meet their existing legal obligations to end the nuclear arms race and pursue disarmament and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Others involved in the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons initiative, including the winners of the 2014 and 2015 Arms Control Persons of the Year Award, Amb. Alexander Kmentt of Austria and hibakusha survivor and anti-nuclear activist Setsuko Thurlow, and their colleagues in government and civil society also deserve tremendous credit.

Serious work lies ahead. We will continue to partner with our friends in the ICAN network and with other nongovernmental leaders to inform and influence public and policy maker action on effective measures to reduce and eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.

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Urgent Need to De-escalate Tensions Between Washington and Pyongyang



Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests has now reached an extremely dangerous level. The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high.

Mr.Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Ministrer of the Democratic People's Republic of KoreaWe are alarmed and strongly condemn the unecessary and provocative threat of massive retaliation against Pyongyang by President Donald Trump in his UN address on Sept. 19, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the suggestion by the Foreign Minister of the DPRK on Sept. 22 that his government may conduct a nuclear test explosion in or over the Pacific Ocean in reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Such a nuclear test would be a threat not just to the United States, but would be a global security and health threat to the entire international community, which has prohibited all nuclear test explosions through the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A nuclear test explosion over the Pacific could trigger events that escalate even further beyond the control of Washington and Pyongyang.

We strongly appeal to key leaders in the region, particularly the United States and North Korea, to immediately take steps ease tensions and refrain from making any further threats of nuclear or missile tests or military action of any kind. Each side must chose their words very carefully and seek open direct channel of communication to avoid miscommunication and miscalculation. The current path being pursued by both sides leads to catastrophe.

We call on the UN Secretary-General to convene a series of emergency, closed-door meetings with senior leaders from the members of Six-Party-Talks to intiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern.

US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun (L) talks with South Korea's representative to the six-party talks, Kim Hong-Kyun (R), during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on March 22, 2017. The meeting came as a new North Korean missile test failed on March 22, according to the South's defence ministry, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on US bases in Japan. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)It is past time for a direct dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course — toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of the DPRK. Such a course begins with an immediate halt to further nuclear test explosions and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and any military exercises that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

Now is the time to back away from edge of a conflict that could escalate to the nuclear level all too quickly.

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Civil Society Leaders: Renew Action to Bring CTBT Into Force



Civil Society Leaders Call for Renewed Action to
Bring Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Into Force at UN Conference

Note Absence of U.S. Voice on Test Ban in Wake of North Korean Nuclear Test

For Immediate Release: Sept. 20, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association (202-277-3478, [email protected]) and Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women’s Action for New Directions, 202-577-9875 ([email protected])

(New York)—At the tenth Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—also known informally as the Article XIV conference—held at the United Nations in New York, a diverse group of nongovernmental nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament leaders, as well as former government officials and diplomats are calling for renewed action to finally bring the 1996 CTBT into force.

The statement from more than 40 civil society leaders, delivered by Kathy Crandall Robinson from Women’s Action for New Directions, notes that “[i]nternational support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions, including 2016’s Resolution 2310 and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but our work is not yet done.” 

“In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty,” the civil society statement urges, "[s]upporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT 'hold-out' states and the international community." 

The full text of the statement is below or click here for the PDF.

Unfortunately, the United States, one of the key states that must ratify before it can enter into force, attended but failed to speak at the conference.

“In the wake of North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, it is essential that Washington join with its allies and the international community in reiterating the United States’ support for a permanent, verifiable end to all nuclear weapons testing,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which organized the civil society statement.

The United States, which was the first country to sign the treaty 21 years ago, is one of the eight “hold-out” states that must still ratify the treaty to trigger its formal entry into force. The other hold-outs include: China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, India, and Pakistan. The CTBT has been signed by 183 states and ratified by 166.

The civil society leaders also called upon the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council members to more fully utilize the CTBTO by calling upon the Executive Secretary to report to these bodies and "supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT.”


Past Time to Finish What We Started 

Civil Society Statement to the 10th Article XIV Conference on
Facilitating Entry Into Force of the CTBT 

Sept. 20, 2017

A global, verifiable, legally binding comprehensive ban on all types of nuclear test explosions has been a goal for international nuclear-risk reduction, nonproliferation, and disarmament since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the result of years of campaigning by civil society organizations and ordinary people around the globe concerned about the adverse health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. The CTBT is the result of the courageous leadership displayed by key political and diplomatic leaders.

Two decades after the opening for signature of the CTBT, the treaty has near universal support and has established a global norm against nuclear test explosions. Nations that conduct nuclear tests are now considered outside the international mainstream and bear the consequences of global isolation. Only one country—North Korea—has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century. 

By prohibiting all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT creates an important barrier against the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs, which, in turn, helps prevent dangerous nuclear competition and advance the twin goals of nonproliferation and disarmament.

The CTBT Organization (CTBTO), established by the international community to provide international oversight for verification of the CTBT, has developed increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to effectively verify compliance with a “zero-yield” nuclear test ban. 

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which is more than 90% complete and is operating on a continuous 24/7 basis, already serves to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, and provides additional data for other applications. The CTBTO, with technical support and financial contributions of key member states, has also refined the advanced tools and techniques necessary for on-site inspections, which can, once the treaty enters into force, be used to investigate suspect events.[1]

International support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. 

  • UNSC Resolution 2310, adopted in September 2016, reaffirmed the widespread global support for the CTBT, reinforced the norm against testing, expressed strong support for the work of the CTBTO, and recognized that the 183 state signatories of the CTBT are obliged not to take any action contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty, including by conducting nuclear test explosions.
  • The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) negotiated earlier this year, though not endorsed by all of the CTBT’s signatories, further reinforces the CTBT and the non-testing norm. Under the TPNW, states-parties may not “test” nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. 

But our work is not yet done. In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty.

Supporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT “hold-out” states and the international community.

It is essential that the incoming co-chairs of the Article XIV process Belgium and Iraq—in coordination with the previous co-chairs Japan and Kazakhstan, other key CTBT states-parties, and civil society—develop a pragmatic, effective, and dynamic action plan to advance prospects for ratification and entry into force. That plan must also be designed to ensure that the financial and technical support for the CTBTO remains steady and strong so as to maintain the capacity to verify compliance with the treaty pending its entry into force. 

Concrete action on ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, advance the goals and objectives outlined by Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and advance the interests of the eight states listed in Annex 2 that must still ratify to trigger the treaty’s entry into force.

India and Pakistan: Since their destabilizing tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998, India and Pakistan have refused to reconsider the CTBT even though neither country has an interest in, or technical justification for, renewing nuclear testing. India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments through the CTBT. Pakistan has said it supports the principles and goals of the CTBT and would welcome a legally binding test ban with India, but leaders in Islamabad have failed to take the first step by signing the CTBT.

India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its effort to win support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council would get a strong boost if leaders in New Delhi would signal their commitment to sign and ratify the CTBT. Pakistan could make a more convincing case that it is a “responsible” nuclear-armed state if it were to sign and ratify the CTBT. UN member states—particularly those in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in the NSG—that claim to be serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear nonproliferation should insist that India and Pakistan sign the CTBT before they are considered for NSG membership.

The Middle East: Ratification of the CTBT by Israel, Egypt, and Iran—all of which must ratify to trigger CTBT entry into force—and Saudi Arabia would reduce nuclear weapon-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary to achieve their common, stated goal of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. “As a stepping-stone towards this long-term objective, a ‘nuclear-test-free zone’ could be created in the Middle East, by way of CTBT ratifications by the remaining states of the region,” EU foreign policy High Representative Federica Mogherini suggested in June 2016 at the special ministerial meeting in Vienna to mark the twentieth anniversary of the treaty.

Israel was among the first nations to sign the treaty in 1996 and has been actively involved in the development of the treaty’s monitoring system and on-site inspection mechanisms. In 2016, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and CTBTO Merav Zafary-Odiz said: “a regional moratorium [on nuclear testing] could enhance security, and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT. Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium, it would be useful for others to do the same.”  Unfortunately, Israel has hesitated to take the next steps toward its own ratification of the CTBT—a move that would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit.

In September 1999, at the first Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the CTBT, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, spoke in support of the CTBT and later endorsed a UN conference statement calling for cooperation aimed at bringing the treaty into effect. Iran is understandably focused on the implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and eventual approval of the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement. But if Iran fails to ratify the CTBT and fully cooperate with the operation of its IMS monitoring stations in the years ahead, it will add to concerns about its commitment under the JCPOA not to undertake prohibited weaponization-related activities. Iran could help assuage such concerns by making clear its support for, and intention to ratify, the CTBT in a timely manner.

China and the United States: China decided two decades ago to join the CTBT regime and became one of the treaty’s early signatories. China’s leaders and officials have consistently expressed their support for the CTBT, but it is clear that China has made a quiet decision to stop short of ratification until the United States completes its ratification process. To most observers outside of China, there do not appear to be any serious political impediments to Chinese ratification at this time, aside from U.S. non-ratification. Beijing’s failure to ratify has likely given cover for India not to consider ratification more seriously and has undermined the credibility of Beijing’s overtures to Pyongyang to refrain from further nuclear test explosions.

Chinese leadership is important and overdue, but stronger U.S. leadership is also essential. Much has changed since the Senate last examined the CTBT in 1999 and rejected the treaty by a 51-48 vote after a brief and highly partisan debate that centered on questions about the then-unproven stockpile stewardship program and then-unfinished global test-ban monitoring system.

The United States no longer has a technical or military need for a nuclear explosive testing option and it is clearly in U.S. national security interests to prevent other states from testing, which would create new nuclear tensions and enable advances in other states’ nuclear weapons arsenals.

President Trump’s administration has expressed support for the global nuclear test moratorium and the CTBTO’s international monitoring system. At the same time, his administration is being pressured by some in Congress to repudiate the U.S. commitment not to conduct nuclear explosive tests and to develop new types of low-yield nuclear weapons with “tailored” effects that could require nuclear explosive testing to confirm their performance. 

Now is the time for U.S. partners to remind the White House that the pursuit of new types of “more usable” nuclear weapons is destabilizing and that the current global testing taboo cannot be taken for granted. All states at this conference must make it a priority to remind the current U.S. administration, at the highest levels, that Washington has a responsibility and opportunity to reconsider and pursue ratification of the CTBT.

North Korea: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the only nation continuing to flout the global norm against nuclear testing. Their sixth nuclear weapon test was measured by the CTBTO as a magnitude 6.1 seismic event, which means the nuclear bomb produced an explosion in excess of 120 kilotons TNT equivalent, and perhaps much higher. This test, and any future nuclear tests, will undoubtedly help North Korea optimize its nuclear warhead designs for ballistic missile delivery. Although North Korea’s leaders may no longer be willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapons program altogether, they still appear to be willing to halt further nuclear testing in exchange for a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula. In a rare statement on the CTBT delivered in Moscow in 2012, a senior DPRK official said: “Once the CTBT becomes effective … then there is no doubt that it would make a great contribution to the world peace and stability. [However,] unless the U.S. hostile policy and its nuclear threats are completely withdrawn and a solid and permanent peace regime is in place on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK is left with no other choices but to steadily strengthen its self-defensive nuclear deterrent to the standard it deems necessary.”[2]

It is in the security interests of Washington, Beijing, and their allies and neighbors in Asia to seek to leverage the international sanctions against Pyongyang and immediately engage in negotiations to halt to further long-range ballistic missile testing and secure a permanent ban on further nuclear testing though its signature and ratification of the CTBT, which are key steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Moving closer to the goal of the CTBT’s formal entry into force is the task of every CTBT state-party because the CTBT is and will continue to be an essential pillar in the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise. 

Doing so will, however, take political energy, and a more serious and sustained commitment

North Korea’s most recent nuclear test explosion is yet another reminder of why CTBT entry into force and the ongoing work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is so vital to every state’s security interests: nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states; supporters as well as skeptics of the TPNW; and states inside and outside the NPT regime.

Finally, the devastating health and environmental effects of decades of nuclear testing around the world, which have adversely affected the lives of millions of people—particularly women and children and those in indigenous and underrepresented societies where a majority of the 2,056 nuclear test explosions have been conducted—serve as one reminder of what is at stake.

Our generation of governmental and nongovernmental leaders has a responsibility to those who have suffered the effects of nuclear testing and to future generations to do our part to finally bring the CTBT into force.


Endorsed by: 

Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner, Japan Atomic Energy Commission,* and former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs 

Ms. Ray Acheson, Programme Director of Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Christine Ahn, Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ

Alimzhan Akhmetov, Director, Center for International Security and Policy, Kazakhstan

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard University*

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Jeff Carter, J.D., Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility 

Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation 

Dr. Kate Dewes, Disarmament and Security Center

Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne* 

James Goodby, Deputy to General John Shalikashvili, Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the CTBT, 2000-2001

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute

Commander Robert Green RN (Ret.), Disarmament and Security Centre

Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arms Control, 1967-1969

Ira Helfand, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Laura S. H. Holgate, former U.S. Ambassador to the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Edward Ifft, Adjunct Professor, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University*

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, British American Security Information Council (BASIC) 

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshares 

Bonnie Jenkins, Joint Fellow, Brookings Institution* and University of Pennsylvania Perry World House,* and former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the U.S. Department of State

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The Honorable Mike Kopetski, former Member of the U.S. Congress and co-sponsor of the 1992 legislation that effected a U.S. nuclear test moratorium 

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, The Stimson Center

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Jenifer Mackby, former Secretary of the Negotiations on the CTBT and former Secretary of the CTBTO Verification Working Group

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Götz Neuneck, Deputy Director Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg

Dr. Andreas Nidecker, President, Basel Peace Office

Marzhan Nurzhan (Kazakhstan), Coordinator for CIS countries, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Interim Convener of Abolition 2000 Youth and nuclear disarmament working group

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Jaap Ramaker, Chairperson of the 1996 CTBT Negotiations in Geneva, and former Special Representative of CTBT Ratifying States to Promote the Treaty

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification & Security Policy Coordination, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2002-2011

Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women's Action for New Directions & Women Legislators' Lobby 

Susi Snyder, Programme Manager, PAX, The Netherlands 

John F. Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World; Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Dianne Valentin, Chair of Board of Directors, Women's Action for New Directions

Frank von Hippel, Assistant Director for National Security, white House Office of Science and Global Security, 1993-1994 

Paul F. Walker, International Program Director, Green Cross International

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation 

David Wright, PhD, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

*Listed for identification purposes only

[1] As outlined in UNSC 2310 and mandated in the charter for the establishment the CTBTO Provisional Technical Secretariat (UN document A/54/884, dated 26 May 2000), the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council may call upon the Executive Secretary to supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. 

[2] Jang Song Chol, Statement to “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): Prospects for Making Its Global Benefits Permanent,” presented at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, September 6, 2012. See: http://ceness-russia.org/data/page/p915_1.pdf

Trump's UN Address a  Failure of Nuclear Leadership



Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270, ext. 102; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

Since 1945, U.S. presidents have sought to rally global support and action toward practical solutions curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing the dangerous likelihood of their use. 

US President Donald Trump waits after addressing the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, in New York on September 19, 2017. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)Sadly, President Donald J. Trump, in his first, fiery address before the UN General Assembly has demonstrated that he is not up to this most important of U.S. presidential responsibilities. 
Instead, Trump threatened to unravel the widely-supported, hard-won 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that verifiably blocks Iran’s path to a bomb. Allies and security and nonproliferation experts agree that Iran is meeting its nuclear-related commitments under the deal. Any further steps by the Trump administration to undermine the Iran nuclear deal will isolate the United States, make it harder to confront Iran’s misbehavior in the region, and worst of all, potentially lead to the undoing of the agreement, thereby increasing the threat of war and a spiral of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and beyond.
On the growing tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile program, Trump likewise failed to appeal to the international community to better implement existing sanctions and to support efforts for a realistic, negotiated solution, instead recklessly threatening to destroy North Korea. It is naive to think that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”
Trump missed an opportunity to outline a coherent approach on how the United States, Russia, and other nuclear-weapon states could responsibly reduce nuclear tensions and work together to prevent nuclear conflict. At this point in his first term as president, Barack Obama had convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council and won the adoption of a comprehensive strategy (UNSC 1887) to reduce nuclear risks worldwide.
Trump’s address is yet another sign that we are entering a dark and difficult phase in the long-running effort to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

In the long run, the United States will continue to play an essential and useful role in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons. But in the near term, other responsible U.S. and world leaders must step forward to provide the nuclear leadership that Mr. Trump is failing to demonstrate.

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