UN Security Council: statement after the vote, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
New Zealand statement delivered by Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 23 September 2016

Anniversaries of important events are rarely straightforward celebrations.  This is certainly the case for today’s anniversary marking twenty years since the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

The Treaty’s adoption in this building two decades ago occasioned considerable euphoria. Something that had seemed impossible – because it had been so strongly opposed by a number of significant countries until just a few years before – was now a done deal.  Like other long-time supporters of nuclear disarmament, New Zealand believed something of real significance had been achieved. 

Prior to the Treaty’s adoption, New Zealand had vigorously pursued the objective of a nuclear test ban treaty for more than three decades.  Twice, with support from others in the Pacific region, New Zealand had even gone to the International Court of Justice in an effort to stop the nuclear testing that had inflamed our region, damaged the Pacific environment and caused deep tensions with some of our oldest friends and allies.  Largely in response to testing in our region, the countries of the South Pacific had also adopted and brought into force the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. 

So for us, and for the Pacific region, the banning of all nuclear test explosions was the culmination of a long sought goal.  

For New Zealand, therefore, there is real cause to remember and celebrate that historic moment in 1996 when the CTBT was adopted.  However, as  others have noted, there is cause, too, for deep disappointment that twenty years later the Treaty is still not in force. 

New Zealand supported the initiative by the United States to try and create new momentum for the Treaty’s entry-into-force and voted in favour of today’s resolution 2310. We join others in calling upon all states that have not yet signed and ratified the Treaty – especially the remaining eight states whose ratification is needed for entry-into-force – to do so as soon as possible.  Until they do, we will not, as a matter of international treaty law, have closed the door on nuclear testing. 

A strong international norm against testing has been created by the Treaty. That norm is being complied with by all states except the DPRK.  North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests are an affront to the international community’s commitment, through the CTBT and the ongoing moratoria against testing, to end the era of nuclear tests, as well as blatant violations of resolutions of this Council and of the DPRK’s commitments under the Charter.  

While the CTBT is an important instrument in its own right, it is important to remember, as others have noted today, that it sits within a wider nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation context.  That context would, as others have noted, have been better reflected in today’s resolution had the draft contained stronger language on the need for progress on nuclear disarmament as New Zealand and others had proposed.

New Zealand also shares the reservations of other Council members about the reference in the resolution to the Joint Statement by five nuclear weapon states who are also Permanent Members of this Council.  While recognising the value of the commitments in the Joint Statement, we are uncomfortable with this Council being used to validate the perspectives of any sub-group of Council members, Permanent or Elected, nuclear weapon holding or nuclear weapon free.

While we must continue to call for States to join the Treaty, after twenty years we also recognise that simply re-stating commitments towards entry-into-force of the CTBT is hardly progress toward nuclear disarmament.   This is particularly true in light of the modernisation programmes that are underway in all States possessing nuclear weapons and which cut across the contribution that the CTBT can make to nuclear disarmament. 

For as long as some States retain nuclear weapons – and declare them to be essential for national security – others will seek them.   This highlights the mutually reinforcing nature of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The neglect of one will set back the other. 


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