North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test Reaffirms Need for a Global Test Ban

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By Michael Krepon:

North Korea’s latest test clarifies the need for a global ban on nuclear testing. It makes the U.N. Security Council resolution currently being now drafted reaffirming the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and national testing moratoria even more important. North Korea’s latest test also underscores the dangers inherent in the stance taken by Senator Marco Rubio and thirty-two of his colleagues that the United States is no longer bound by any obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Do we want Russia and China to no longer be bound by their obligations under this Treaty? Do we want a world in which any country is free to carry out explosive testing of nuclear weapons, like North Korea, or a world in which North Korea remains the only outcast that has carried out nuclear testing in the 21st Century?
Portions of my testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the CTBT and the UNSC resolution on September 7th before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
“If the Senate sees fit to consent to the CTBT’s ratification, China is likely to follow suit. If China ratifies, India can ratify. If India ratifies, Pakistan can ratify. This progression would make it easier for Israel’s leadership, which has expressed an interest in ratification, to act on its stated intention. Then the international focus on ratification would fall heavily, and usefully, on Iran and Egypt. In other words, nuclear dangers can be reduced in East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East if the Senate sees fit to consent to the CTBT’s ratification. If the Senate refuses to consent to ratification, nuclear dangers will be compounded in East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.”
“The longer the CTBT remains stuck in limbo, the more its essential monitoring system is likely to atrophy. Champions of the Treaty will continue to pay their dues and maintain their monitoring stations; others will, over time, short-change international institutions that provide essential global services. Why should we be bothered, when we have our own “National Technical Means” (NTM) to monitor extremely low yield nuclear tests? Our NTM is better than the Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System. But our NTM, while exceptional, is not in almost 300 places around the world, like  the Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System. And two monitoring systems are better than one. And because our system is secret, our pronouncements based on secret data will be challenged by some. When the monitoring systems of the United States and the Treaty Organization work separately but in parallel, deterrence against extremely low-yield, covert testing is reinforced. Rebuttals to those who challenge data will be far more effective.”
“The fates of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the CTBT have always been intertwined. Continued testing facilitates horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation. The absence of testing supports nuclear non-proliferation and makes it difficult for states to pursue advanced nuclear weapon designs.”
“On the twentieth anniversary of the Treaty’s signing, this UNSC resolution reaffirms the Treaty’s central object and purpose of banning nuclear tests, strengthens national moratoria on testing, and supports monitoring to deter extremely low yield nuclear test explosions. The reasons for this resolution are straightforward: The world will be safer without renewed nuclear testing. Nuclear non-proliferation will be advanced in a world without testing, and set back by the resumption of testing.”
“The American public and our allies do not want to resume nuclear testing. The U.S. stockpile stewardship program is a significant success story. Advances in monitoring extremely low yield, covert nuclear testing is a significant success story. This U.N. Security Council resolution builds on these successes. Reaffirming the global norm against nuclear testing serves U.S. national and international security interests. This resolution and the companion P-5 statement are worthy of support.”
Michael Krepon is Co-founder of the Stimson Center. To read the full testimony, click here.

Photo credit: (stephen) via Flickr
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