Published On: Thu, Mar 22nd, 2018

Expert: Senate Should Back Nuclear-Test Ban as NKorea Talks Near

The Senate should approve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so the United States locks in “its strategic superiority” to verify testing by rogue nations as President Donald Trump nears possible talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Yale University’s Stephen Herzog said Thursday.

“Absent testing” of nuclear weapons, “U.S. rivals will face limitations on their ability to develop new types of nuclear weapons,” Herzog said in an op-ed in The National Interest.

“So long as there are nuclear-armed states around the globe, the ban effectively helps the United States to lock in its strategic superiority.”

The treaty, adopted by the United Nations in 1996, established a global organization tasked with verifying a ban on nuclear tests through a worldwide monitoring system that would conduct on-site inspections.

More than 180 nations have signed and over 140 have ratified the test-ban treaty, including Russia.

The U.S. signed the pact in 1996 under Democratic President Bill Clinton, but he could not get it through the Republican-controlled Senate, and it died on a 51-48 vote.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama promised that he would seek to get it ratified.

He failed, because ratification requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate.

But “the situation has changed in America’s favor,” Herzog said, noting that the monitoring system — spanning 337 operations worldwide — “is nearly 90 percent complete and successfully detected all six of Pyongyang’s provocative nuclear tests.”

Further, the U.S. has “made massive investments” in its verification capabilities and in maintaining its nuclear arsenal, which involves “supercomputing simulations” that Herzog likened to the National Ignition Facility seen in the 2013 movie “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”

“These investments have paid off,” he said.

Since 1997, top federal energy officials have “certified to the sitting president that preserving America’s nuclear deterrent doesn’t require explosive testing,” Herzog said.

In addition, “a nonpartisan group of the nation’s top scientific experts also concluded that no country could carry out militarily significant cheating under CTBT without getting caught.”

President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last month by the Defense Department, also supports the nation’s support for the global monitoring system and the Vienna-based organization.

Trump’s plan also “indicates that the U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing since 1992 will continue and encourages all states not to conduct tests,” Herzog said.

“But the Nuclear Posture Review also states that the administration will not pursue test-ban ratification — with little explanation.”

Still, North Korea remains “the only country to have tested nuclear weapons since 1998,” Herzog said.

“Many arms-control advocates are thus encouraging treaty ratification as a confidence-building measure between the two sides.

“Ratification would formalize the U.S. testing moratorium and strengthen the administration’s credibility when dealing with Pyongyang.

“It would also apply pressure to other key test ban holdouts: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan,” Herzog concluded.

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Expert: Senate Should Back Nuclear-Test Ban as NKorea Talks Near