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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, U.S. Announce Agreement on Test Ban

JAKARTA -- An agreement by Russia and the United States to accept a proposed global nuclear test ban treaty has increased pressure on China and others to drop objections to the pact when talks resume in Geneva next week.


Moscow and Washington expressed reservations about the treaty even as they announced their agreement Tuesday at an Asian conference, but said the treaty was the best possible compromise.


Negotiators from 61 nations already missed a June 28 deadline for producing an agreement because of objections by Russia, China, India and other countries to the deal's scope and enforcement.


"I look forward to meeting with [Chinese] Vice Premier Qian Qichen here in Jakarta to discuss how we can achieve common goals such as the conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Wednesday.


The United States and Russia issued a joint statement backing a proposed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- although it does not fully satisfy either Washington or Moscow.


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov called for support by other nuclear powers for the version of the CBTB proposed by Dutch mediator Jaap Ramaker after the talks deadlocked last month.


Primakov read the joint U.S.-Russian statement through an interpreter as Christopher looked on.


"We urge other participants in the negotiations to also support that draft, so when the work of the session of the conference on disarmament is resumed July 29, its participants could make a decision to approve the draft treaty and to send it for approval and for opening for signature in the course of the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly," Primakov said.


He said the draft "does not fully satisfy both sides" and Christopher agreed.


A senior U.S. diplomat told reporters there was a growing consensus on the latest draft despite its shortcomings. He did not elaborate.


Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda on Wednesday urged the signing of a proposed global treaty banning all nuclear tests by mid-September.


"I would like to call on the countries concerned to play a constructive role in helping the CBTB be signed by the time the UN General Assembly session begins in September," Ikeda said.


Negotiations are set to resume in Geneva next Monday, with attention focused on whether the final draft of the pact will receive endorsement from 44 major nations. China disagreed with key proposals on the scope and enforcement of the draft treaty, agreeing only last month to drop its demand to be allowed to conduct non-military nuclear blasts.


Even without a treaty, however, Beijing has promised to stop nuclear test explosions after setting off one more underground blast between now and September.


India has opposed the treaty in its present form, demanding that it commit declared nuclear powers, including neighboring China, to a long-term plan for nuclear disarmament. Archrival Pakistan said it won't sign if India doesn't.


Asked for reaction to the U.S.-Russian agreement, Indian External Affairs Minister I.K. Gujral said, "India is very much in favor of a comprehensive test ban. But let us not confuse it with the treaty as a draft. The treaty falls short of achieving that purpose."


Russia, along with Britain and Pakistan, insisted earlier that the treaty should not go into effect without ratification by all five declared nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and the three "threshold" nuclear states -- Israel, India and Pakistan.


Ramaker, a Dutch diplomat who chairs the treaty negotiating panel of the conference, said when the June 28 deadline passed without agreement that it was impossible to satisfy everyone completely.


Christopher and the others are attending talks organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with so-called dialogue partners.


Dialogue partners talk regularly on a full range of economic, political and other issues. Russia, China and India have just been promoted to full dialogue status, joining the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the European Union.


Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, chairman of the ASEAN meeting, on Tuesday urged all states taking part in the conference on disarmament, "to conclude, as a task of the highest priority, a universal and multilaterally effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty..."


ASEAN has also been pressing the nuclear powers to sign a protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone agreement proclaimed by ASEAN heads of state in Bangkok last December.


The pact bars signatories from manufacturing, possessing or using nuclear weapons and provides safety standards for peaceful nuclear energy development. It allows passage through the zone by ships or planes that might be carrying such weapons, but doesn't allow such weapons to be "stationed" in the region.


The protocol has an escape clause that allows those who sign to withdraw from the commitment on one year's notice if "extraordinary events" jeopardize that country's "supreme national interests."


The five declared nuclear powers have thus far declined to sign, saying the treaty would limit their legal rights and operational capabilities.