Statement by the President on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

August 11, 1995

One of my administration's highest priorities is to negotiate a comprehensive test ban to reduce the danger posed by nuclear weapons proliferation. To advance that goal and secure the strongest possible treaty, I'm announcing today my decision to seek a zero-yield CTBT. A zero-yield comprehensive test ban would ban any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion immediately upon entry into force.

I hope it will lead to an early consensus among all states at the negotiating table. Achieving a CTB was the goal of both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Now, as then, such a treaty would greatly strengthen U.S. and global security and create another barrier to nuclear proliferation and nuclear weapons development.

At the conclusion of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference in May, all parties to that treaty agreed to work to complete a CTB no later than 1996. Today I want to reaffirm our commitment to do everything possible to conclude the CTB negotiations as soon as possible so that treaty can be signed next year.

As part of our national security strategy, the United States must and will retain strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile foreign leadership with access to strategic nuclear forces from acting against our vital interest and to convince it that seeking a nuclear advantage would be futile.

In this regard, I consider the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to be a supreme national interest of the United States. I am assured by the Secretary of Energy and directors of our nuclear labs that we can meet the challenge of maintaining our nuclear deterrent under a CTB through a science-based stockpile stewardship program without nuclear testing. I directed the implementation of such a program almost two years ago and it is being developed with the support of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This program will now be tied to a new certification procedure.

In order for this program to succeed, both the administration and the Congress must provide sustained bipartisan support for the stockpile stewardship program over the next decade and beyond. I am committed to working with Congress to ensure this support.

While I'm optimistic that the stockpile stewardship program will be successful, as President I cannot dismiss the possibility, however unlikely, that the program will fall short of its objectives. Therefore, in addition to the new annual certification procedure for our nuclear weapons stockpile, I am also establishing concrete, specific safeguards that define the conditions under which the United States will enter into a CTB. In the event that I were informed by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy, advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the directors of the Energy Department's nuclear weapons labs and the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapons type which the two Secretaries considered to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, I would be prepared, in consultation with Congress, to exercise our supreme national interest rights under the CTB in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

Exercising this right, however, is a decision I believe I or any future president will not have to make. The nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal are safe and reliable. And I am determined our stockpile stewardship program will ensure they remain so in the absence of nuclear testing. I recognize that our present monitoring systems will not detect with high confidence very low-yield tests. Therefore, I am committed to pursuing a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.

Thirty-two years ago, President Kennedy called the completion of the limited test ban treaty in Moscow a shaft of light cut into the darkness of the Cold War. With it, he said, the nation could step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace. We did, and the world is a safer place because of it. I believe that we are ready to take the next step and lead the world to a comprehensive test ban. This would be a fitting tribute to all those, Republicans and Democrats, who have worked for a comprehensive test ban treaty over the past four decades.

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