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UN Conference to push work towards into force of major nuclear treaty

(Xinhua)

09:15, September 02, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 1(Xinhua) -- An UN ministerial conference, which is to be held here in the UN headquarters on Sept. 23, will push for further signings and ratifications of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), according to Annika Thunborg, spokesperson and chief of public information for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO).

Thunborg briefed the press here on Thursday on the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which will bring foreign ministers from around 100 countries as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to UN headquarters to take party in discussions.

Nine more countries -- the United States, China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Israel, Iran, and Egypt -- must ratify the CTBT, which bans all nuclear explosions, to enter into force.

Among these, India, DPRK and Pakistan have not signed the Treaty, the rest six have signed but not ratified it.

"What we expect is that there will be a lot of calls on these nine countries to sign or ratify the treaty," said Thunborg. " There will be a final declaration and an action plan adopted on what should happen."

A total of 182 countries have signed the CTBT, including many of the nine in question. However, only 154 have ratified the treaty, and according to the rules of entry into force, 44 particular states, including the nine, are required to sign and ratify.

Thunborg identified ways that the CTBT has been successful thus far. She said that it has allowed for extensive and accurate monitoring of nuclear tests around the world in addition to monitoring the spread of radiation and helping with disaster mitigation.

"So all of this we have succeeded with but what we have not done, what the key challenge and the crux of the issue is, it's still that the treaty has not entered into force because nine countries remain," Thunborg said. "Nine countries will need to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force and many of these nine countries are also nuclear armed states, which makes it even more important."

Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa Catellano and her Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt will serve as chairs of the conference.

Thunborg pointed out that Sept. 2011 is a month of many anniversaries in the history of nuclear weaponry.

The CTBT opened for signatures 25 years ago on Sept. 23, she said.

"So that's 15 years ago, and we have accomplished a lot," she explained. "Testing basically screeched to a halt. We had over 2000 nuclear explosions before that and in the last 15 years we have had a handful -- a handful too many, but still."

Another important anniversary was on Thursday, which marked the 50th anniversary of the breaking of a moratorium on nuclear testing.

"The moratorium was there to allow for negotiations on a complete ban on nuclear testing and negotiations took place in Geneva, but the moratorium had been very fragile from the beginning," Thunborg said. "The nuclear weapon states' establishments in the nuclear weapons states wanted to push for a resumption of nuclear testing and there were political tensions behind the scenes."

Nuclear tests by the former Soviet Union and the U.S. broke the treaty and set off what Thunborg called a "virtual nuclear testing frenzy." She said over 250 nuclear bombs were tested in the 16 months following the breaking of the moratorium and in Oct. 1962, the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"So to connect to fifty years ago, the treaty hasn't entered into force, it hasn't taken legal effect so we actually still have a moratorium," she said. "We're living with a moratorium for fifteen years and we all know history has taught us how unreliable moratoria can be."

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