Indonesia to ratify CTBT, stalled progress on FMCT

Looking back, May 2010 was an encouraging month for progress on the nuclear non-proliferation front. Aside from the forging of consensus at the end of the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process, a small but concrete step was also taken toward entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) with the announcement by Indonesia on 3 May that it was initiating the treaty’s ratification process. Indonesia is one of the nine remaining ‘Annex II’ states that must ratify the 1996 accord before it can come into force, with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States still to do so also.

While greeting the news in his opening address to the NPT review conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nonetheless lamented the treaty’s current status, suggesting that the time had come for the setting of a ‘timeframe for ratification’ to be looked at seriously. ‘The current mechanism for entry into force dates from a time when there were questions about the treaty’s monitoring and verification system,’ he said. ‘But times have changed. The system has proven its effectiveness…We need to consider seriously an alternative mechanism for bringing the treaty into effect.’ The CTBT’s last Article XIV (entry into force) conference in 2009 noted with concern that the treaty was still not in force ‘thirteen years after its opening for signature on 24 September 1996,’ but was unable to agree on firm measures to change the current state of play, instead simply reaffirming its ‘commitment to the treaty’s basic obligations’ and calling on all states ‘to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty pending its entry into force.’

In his speech, Ban Ki-moon also told delegates that he had called on the Conference of Disarmament (CD) to immediately begin long-stalled negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for use in weapons. But unlike the NPT and CTBT, progress on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) appears as distant as ever, with Pakistan continuing to stand in the way of talks. On 3 June, the Pakistani ambassador to the UN, Zamir Akram, denounced the ‘artificial hype surrounding the FMCT issue’, which, he said, was being ‘presented and pushed’ as a test of the CD’s ongoing ‘relevance and credibility.’ Fearing and arguing that an FMCT would only be aimed at Pakistan, Mr Akram sought to deflect attention to ‘other issues on [Pakistan’s] agenda [that] are equally important to other states such as nuclear disarmament within a certain timeframe, prohibition of using nuclear umbrella [sic], legally binding instruments on outer space and negative security assurances, conventional arms control at regional or sub-regional levels and missiles in all their aspects.’

Sonia Drobysz, London