By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is urging for the total ban on nuclear weapon tests, calling on states who have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to ratify it, so that nuclear testing can be relegated definitively to the past.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, made the statement on Monday at a high-level event to mark the UN’s International Day against Nuclear Tests, 9 September.
More than 2,000 nuclear tests since 1945
The Vatican diplomat lamented that the since the first test of a nuclear weapon on 16 July 1945, by the United States in the desert of New Mexico, “unhappily nicknamed ‘Trinity’”, more than 2,000 tests have been carried out by 8 states on 4 continents and in the Pacific Ocean area.
He said the Holy See “had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy and since then has unceasingly called for a ban on nuclear weapon tests.”
What is CTBT?
The CTBT, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 September 1996, is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, on the Earth's surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground.
Forty-four specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT.
“My Delegation therefore urges the States whose ratifications are indispensable for the entry into force of the CTBT to ratify the Treaty,” Archbishop Auza said. The Holy See ratified the Treaty on the very first day it was opened for signature and ratification.
A nuclear-weapon-free world
According to the Filipino archbishop, a unilateral moratorium, which is a temporary suspension of nuclear tests, can never be considered as an enduring substitute for the CTBT. However, he noted that unilateral moratoria have thankfully held firm since 1998, with the sole exception of North Korea.
Archbishop Auza explained that the Treaty bans nuclear tests, “mindful of the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.”
“Any future nuclear testing would have the extremely negative consequence of moving us further away from our goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” the archbishop said.