Un­paid U.S. dues hit nuke-test mon­i­tor­ing; global net­work in jeop­ardy

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Ni­cholas Kralev

The in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­min­is­ter­ing the nu­clear testban treaty has warned that it would not be able to com­plete a global net­work of sta­tions mon­i­tor­ing test­ing un­less the United States, its largest con­trib­u­tor, pays mil­lions of dol­lars in ar­rears.

Wash­ing­ton, which is re­spon­si­ble for nearly a quar­ter of the agency’s $100 mil­lion an­nual bud­get, lost its vot­ing rights two weeks ago be­cause of non­pay­ment, said of­fi­cials in Vi­enna, Aus­tria, where the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CTBTO) is based. More im­por­tantly, they added, the U.S. fail­ure to pay might en­cour­age other coun­tries to with­hold their dues as well.

“The to­tal out­stand­ing U.S. con­tri­bu­tions are $38 mil­lion” since 2002, said spokes­woman An­nika Thun­borg.

The United States signed the treaty in 1996, dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, but has not rat­i­fied it. As a sig­na­tory, it must “dis­charge its fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions in full” within a year af­ter re­ceiv­ing a bill, which it did not, she said.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which op­poses the treaty, is split over U.S. con­tri­bu­tion to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Most po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees work­ing on the is­sue ap­pear un­per­turbed by the vot­ing rights sus­pen­sion and the Vi­enna group’s fu­ture.

They re­ject calls for a com­mit­ment not to test nu­clear weapons, say­ing that, in or­der to main­tain the U.S. stock­piles’ re­li­a­bil­ity, test­ing might be nec­es­sary at some point. In ad­di­tion, they crit­i­cize the treaty’s ver­i­fi­ca­tion mech­a­nism as in­suf­fi­cient to pre­vent other coun­tries from cheat­ing.

Those of­fi­cials also point out that the United States, as a sig­na­tory to the treaty, will keep re­ceiv­ing the data from the mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions re­gard­less of its ar­rears.

But intelligence of­fi­cials and some civil ser­vants point out that, be­cause the United States does not have ac­cess to sen­si­tive places such as Iran and China, the only way to mon­i­tor po­ten­tial nu­clear test­ing there — ex­cept for seis­mic ac­tiv­ity — is for the CTBTO to build mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions.

Un­like the United States, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has ac­cess to those and other coun­tries be­cause they have signed the treaty.

One of­fi­cial also said that hav­ing “our eyes and ears” in the or­ga­ni­za­tion would be ben­e­fi­cial, but no Amer­i­cans can work at the CTBTO un­less the ar­rears are paid.

“The U.S. fail­ure to pay its share will hin­der the CTBTO’s abil­ity to com­plete con­struc­tion and cer­tify for use the re­main­ing sta­tions of the In­ter­na­tional Mon­i­tor­ing Sys­tem,” said Daryl Kim­ball, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Wash­ing­ton- based Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion.

Even though 240 sta­tions ex­ist, an­other 80 still need to be built, in­clud­ing in “re­mote and strate­gic ar­eas such as Turk­menistan, which borders Iran,” he said.

The CTBTO has cred­ited one of its sta­tions — near Yel­lowknife in Canada’s North­west Ter­ri­to­ries — with de­tect­ing “trace amounts of unique ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial that con­firmed” the North Korean test in Oc­to­ber was nu­clear, Mr. Kim­ball said.

An­a­lysts said that seis­mic ac­tiv­ity, which can be reg­is­tered eas­ily, is a good in­di­ca­tor that an ex­plo­sion has taken place, but the CTBTO sta­tions pro­vide data based on at­mo­spheric mod­el­ing that proves the test was nu­clear.

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