Opposing the CTBT because it fails to deliver complete disarmament is tantamount to opposing speed limits on roads because they fail to prevent accidents completely.

The 287 CTBTO stations are complete. Even with much fewer stations, the 2006 and 2009 North Korean tests were detected, in spite of their low yield. Monitoring technologies have evolved far beyond what was envisaged at the time of the system’s conception in the 1990s. The recent NAS study shows that all tests of military significance will be detected. The CTBT is non-discriminatory. It bans all nuclear explosions and all 182 Member States receive the monitoring data on equal terms.

A crude Hiroshima-bomb type weapon can be developed without testing, yet the development of more advanced nuclear weapons continues to rely on testing.

The CTBT was never meant to be a cure-all. It addresses one, albeit crucial aspect: hampering qualitative improvements of nuclear weapons. It could make a difference -- whether a “simple” nuclear weapon is at stake or a thermonuclear weapon with apocalyptic destructive power.

Yes, nuclear war in South Asia can be triggered by states or non-state actors; by accident or design -– as long as nuclear weapons exist in the region.

A nuclear weapon convention outlawing nuclear weapons is an increasingly popular goal but renegotiating the CTBT’s entry-into-force provisions is surely unrealistic.

(Jayantha Dhanapala is currently President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He was United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs from 1998 to 2003 and Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States from 1995 to 1997.)

Click here for the article "The CTBT Conundrum" by Shyam Saran.

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