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June 20, 2000
Clinton lashes out at Republicans over CTBT
US President Bill Clinton claimed that by rejecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Republicans had been small-minded and thus missed the opportunity to "lead the world towards a safer place".
The Republicans, who have a majority in the Senate, had put him in a false position prior to his visit to south Asia where he had hoped to get India and Pakistan to sign the treaty, he said at a fund-raiser in Texas.
The CTBT was rejected, with 48 votes for and 51 against it. This was short of the 67 votes -- which would make two-thirds of the senate -- needed for ratification. The final vote closely followed party lines with only four Republicans voting for it. Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat) of West Virginia, voted "present."
He pointed out that America thus became the only major nation to reject the CTBT and that every president since the advent of the atomic age had hoped to ban nuclear tests, adding that the ratification of the CTBT was an urgent requirement.
Clinton, who has always pushed for the CTBT, had worked harder to get India and Pakistan to sign the treaty soon after the two countries conducted nuclear tests.
Russia signed the CTBT on May 28, a week before President Vladimir Putin met Clinton.
In March, Secretary of state Madeleine Albright had said that effort to secure ratification of the 1996 CTBT "is far too important to abandon" and the United States will continue to work "for the treaty and to join with others around the world to halt the development and spread of more advanced nuclear arms."
Speaking for the Republicans, Senator Jon Kyl (Arizona) last week defended the rejection of the treaty, stating it was done on merit alone..
He said that the CTBT lacked even a pretense of enforceability and was poorly crafted, not even having the term "nuclear explosion" defined.
Kyl said that the CTBT would undermine America's nuclear deterrent since testing is what maintained the viability of the US's stockpile.
"Under the CTBT, we could not field new designs to replace older weapons, because we could not do the required testing," he had said.
He claimed that the CTBT would not even halt nuclear proliferation since nuclear testing wasn't essential to develop first-generation devices; it would at best stop the development of sophisticated nuclear weapons. He also felt the treaty was not verifiable.
"Credible evasion techniques like decoupling and anonymous testing in open ocean areas would have permitted cheaters to avoid detection and attribution. The treaty's provisions allowing for on-site inspections are also deficient. A nation would have the right to designate up to 50 square kilometers as off-limits to inspections, a situation analogous to Iraq's efforts to bar UN inspectors from 'presidential palaces'," he said.
Warning that at least one country was doing low-level testing, Kyl said a treaty could, therefore, clearly not be enforced.
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