Prospects for a global treaty banning nuclear weapon tests got a major boost here Tuesday with a joint statement by Russia and the United States calling for a compromise treaty draft to be approved as it is now written.
“The Russian Federation and the United States are prepared to support the draft treaty on the comprehensive banning of nuclear tests as it was proposed … although it does not fully satisfy both sides,” the two countries said in a statement read to reporters by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov.
The statement urged other nations to support the treaty, as is, without more negotiations, so it may be approved by a disarmament conference that reopens in Geneva on July 29. It could then be sent on for approval by the U.N. General Assembly later this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who appeared at the news conference with Primakov after a 90-minute meeting, described the two nations’ statement as having “great significance.”
Earlier Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas - who chairs a 21-member forum of foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations and major world powers - also endorsed quick conclusion of a test-ban treaty. The forum, which meets annually to discuss regional security issues, “called upon all states participating in the Conference on Disarmament, in particular the nuclear weapons states, to conclude, as a task of the highest priority, a universal and … verifiable comprehensive test ban treaty,” Alatas said.
China and India, two nations seen as the greatest potential blocks to a treaty, are represented in the forum but are not bound by the chairman’s statement.
China is the only nuclear power now not observing a testing moratorium. But it has said it will stop testing by the end of this year. Asked if Washington expects Beijing to support the treaty as now drafted, a U.S. official replied: “I don’t think their position on this is crystal clear. They certainly haven’t volunteered that they accept the present text.”
India, which conducted a nuclear explosion years ago but says it is not a nuclear-weapons state, has refused to support the treaty. India has objected to the accord because it does not commit the world’s declared nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - to a timetable for disarmament.