Under the Radar: U.S. Can Make or Break International Nuclear Monitoring System


I have no doubt that readers of this blog have noticed my more-than-occasional rants about insufficient U.S. funding for multilateral activities and institutions. Global poverty and U.N. peacekeeping are among the areas I’ve pushed for hardest through my ” day job,” but there’s another that’s just as much in need and even less noticed.
The shortfall in U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) threatens to undermine global efforts to monitor nuclear tests, especially in areas where the U.S. lacks access, like China, North Korea, and Iran. It’s one more example of the Bush administration’s unfortunate tendency to cut off its nose to spite its face.
To date, the only coverage of this issue was a short article in the Washington Times. It desperately deserves some more attention.
The brief history is as follows: President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear tests, in 1996. The Senate has never ratified it, but the U.S. has remained a member of the CTBTO, which is charged with implementing the agreement.
To do that, the CTBTO has begun construction of an international monitoring system to detect nuclear tests. For example, it was the CTBTO system that confirmed that North Korea’s missile test last October was nuclear.
The administration rejects the CTBT and is split over funding for the CTBTO. It has never requested funding from Congress, and last year, the U.S. lost its voting rights in the Organization.
Without U.S. funds, which make up roughly a quarter of the CTBTO budget, the monitoring system won’t be completed. Stations planned in strategically important locations – locations near China, Iran, and North Korea, where the U.S. has no nuclear “eyes and ears” of its own – won’t be built.
And it would cripple one of the most critical nonproliferation tools available to the international community.
If the new leadership at State is really looking to heal some wounds with the international community, this is low-hanging fruit. Besides, do we really need fewer non-military tools to contain the proliferation of nuclear weapons?
Congress needs to right this wrong, pronto.
— Scott Paul
Note: In a previous post, I noted that the DNC endorsed the ONE Vote ’08 Campaign and urged the RNC to do the same. I have since been informed that the DNC and RNC have both endorsed the ONE Vote ’08 platform. Congratulations to both.


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