New UN test ban chief says goal is to bring pact into force

Sep 8, 2021, 4:20 PM | Updated: 4:39 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The new head of the U.N. nuclear test ban treaty organization said Wednesday his goal is to have the treaty enter into force, which would require ratification by eight countries — the U.S., China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

“I remain optimistic, but I’m also realistic,” Robert Floyd said at a news conference. “I don’t underestimate the challenge.”

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, known as the CTBT, has 196 member states — 185 that have signed the treaty and 170 that have ratified it. But the treaty has not entered into force because it needs ratification by the eight non-ratifying nations that had nuclear power reactors or research reactors when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1996.

Floyd said he wants to sit down with each of the eight countries to discuss why five of them signed the treaty and understand their “current circumstances” regarding the treaty. He said he would like to ask them, “What pathway do you see going forward so they could ratify?”

“Almost all of them support the treaty,” he said. “It’s just they have other circumstances which constrain them taking the step of ratification.”

Floyd, who was previously the director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office, became executive secretary of the treaty organization Aug. 1 after being elected over his predecessor, Lassina Zerbo, who was seeking an unprecedented third term.

Floyd said that “the most immediate future ratifications will not be from the eight” nuclear nations. He said there are about 25 countries that haven’t ratified the treaty, “so I’m very keen to see more and more of the 25 ratify, which then brings us towards universalization, which then puts pressure on the eight and on the entry into force.”

He noted that only one nuclear test explosion has been carried out in the 21st century — by North Korea. “CTBT has effectively created a norm against nuclear testing, even though it is yet to become legally binding,” he said.

“Today there are more than 13,400 nuclear weapons in existence, which is enough to destroy the world many times over,” Floyd said. “So ending nuclear testing effectively stops the development of new nuclear weapons, or the further development of existing ones. I’m hopeful that we can rid the world of this threat.”

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New UN test ban chief says goal is to bring pact into force