Sixty years ago, on September 10, 1963, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty entered into force. Also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, it banned nuclear weapons tests in the air, on land and in water. The treaty significantly reduced nuclear fallout beyond the test sites, and therefore beyond national borders. Thirty-three years later, 186 nations signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, forbidding all nuclear tests.
“But despite the great impact of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty and the norm it fostered, the goal of a global, legally binding ban on all nuclear weapon test explosions by all States Parties in all environments remains elusive,” said Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security before the UN General Assembly. “The vital final step to reaching that goal is the entry into force of the CTBT.”
The treaty is remarkably successful. Inasmuch as nuclear tests are forbidden, it is more difficult for states to develop and field new warhead designs. However, eight states, including the United States, have so far failed to ratify the CTBT. Their adherence to the treaty relies on voluntary moratoria.
“For more than thirty years, the United States has not conducted a nuclear explosive test, and we have no plans to do so. We were the first to sign the CTBT when it was opened for signature in September 1996,” said Under Secretary Jenkins. “Since then, the United States has maintained a zero-yield moratorium on nuclear explosive testing and calls on all states possessing nuclear weapons to declare or maintain such a moratorium.”
“While these voluntary moratoria help to maintain the international norm against nuclear explosive testing, we also recognize that there is no substitute for the legally binding ban that an in-force CTBT will provide. Such a ban is in the interest of all states,” said Under Secretary Jenkins.
“A legally binding ban on nuclear explosive testing remains an international priority. The NPT Parties recognized once again that a ban on all such testing, in all environments, is an important and necessary step on the path to a world without nuclear weapons,” she said.
“Despite the difficult international security environment in which we find ourselves today,” said Under Secretary Jenkins, “all states must re-commit to the goal of a global, legally binding ban on nuclear explosive tests as an important milestone on the road to a world without nuclear weapons.”