New Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Chief Visits China, Seeks Treaty Ratification by Remaining Eight Countries

Lassina Zerbo, the new executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), travelled to China Aug. 4 for his first trip abroad as the head of the organization seeking to promote the ratification of the key treaty by the countries on whose ratification its entry into force depends.

During his week-long stay, Zerbo, who took office on Aug. 1, met Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other high-level officials, visited a CTBTO monitoring station being installed in Kunming in southwest China and delivered a keynote address at a workshop on nuclear arms control organized by the Chinese Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

“My first official visit is to China in recognition of China’s importance in paving the way for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. I will encourage China to take the lead for ratification by the Annex 2 States. I wish to build upon the already fruitful cooperation with China. My visit aims to address the sustainability of a credible verification system through the provision of data to the CTBTO’s International Data Centre and thus to all States Signatories,” Zerbo said at the workshop.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi congratulated Zerbo during a meeting on Zerbo’s his assumption of office and expressed China’s full support for him personally and for the organization. The foreign minister also stressed China’s continued commitment to the CTBT in line with China’s policy to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

Zerbo, in turn, thanked Wang for China’s continued support and excellent cooperation with the organization. He said China’s disarmament credentials were a “strong basis for China to demonstrate leadership and pave the way for the remaining eight countries to ratify the CTBT, enabling the treaty’s entry into force.” Zerbo expressed confidence that intensified technical and scientific cooperation with China would further strengthen the CTBT’s verification regime. He also expressed hope this would influence ratification of the treaty by China.

During his visit, Zerbo also met deputy minister and head of the general armament directorate in the Ministry of Defence, which oversees the country’s technical and scientific cooperation with the CTBTO. During the meeting, it was agreed to proceed with the provision of data from the CTBTO’s monitoring stations in China to the organization’s International Data Centre in Vienna. This is part of the testing and evaluation process that marks the first formal step towards certification of the monitoring stations in China.

CTBTO officials hope Zerbo’s visit will give an impetus for the remaining eight countries, including China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States to ratify the treaty, which is a precondition for its entry into force. To date, 183 countries have signed the CTBT, of which 159 have ratified the Treaty.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions, thus hampering the first-time development of nuclear weapons, as well as significant enhancements to nuclear arsenals.

Last year, Kazakhstan, a country which suffered from almost 500 Soviet nuclear weapons tests, launched The ATOM Project as part of efforts undertaken by many countries in ensuring entry into force of the CTBT. The project is an international petition campaign designed to unify global public opinion against nuclear weapons testing. It tells the tragic and hopeful stories of survivors of nuclear testing from the region of Semey. The survivors and their descendants continue to suffer from illness, disease and severe deformities caused by exposure to nuclear radiation during and after the testing, which took place 100 miles outside of the city.

Recently, the project has called on all people of the world to observe a minute of silence on Aug. 29, the United Nations International Day against Nuclear Tests, in memory of all victims of nuclear weapons testing globally.

The moment of silence is proposed for 11:05 a.m. local time across the world. When clock hands show 11:05, they represent the Roman letter V, which stands for victory. Activists at the project hope it will also signify a victory of common sense over fear and a victory for nuclear disarmament efforts around the world.

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