THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST-BAN TREATY: TWO YEARS AND COUNTING (Senate - September 24, 1998)

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today is the second anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. It is also nearly a year since the President submitted that treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

Much has happened since then. For example, Congress funded the Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship program to ensure that U.S. nuclear weapons remain safe and reliable in the absence of nuclear testing.

We are building new state-of-the-art facilities that will enable scientists to replicate processes that occur in nuclear explosions. We are developing new computers to permit the complex modeling that is necessary to understand nuclear explosions and to test new component materials or designs. We are conducting sub-critical experiments that are permitted under the Test-Ban Treaty.

We are also inspecting annually each type of nuclear weapon in our arsenal, so that problems associated with the aging of those weapons can be identified and corrected without a need for nuclear weapons tests. These inspections and corrective actions enable our nuclear weapons establishment to certify on an annual basis that there are no problems that require renewed nuclear testing.

In short, then, the United States is showing the world that it is, indeed, possible to maintain nuclear deterrence under a test-ban regime.

We are also showing the world that it is possible to verify compliance with the Test-Ban Treaty. Verification is never perfect, but the nascent International Monitoring System has functioned well enough to severely limit what a nuclear power can learn from undetected testing.

Last May, India and Pakistan conducted nuclear weapons tests. Critics of the Test-Ban Treaty note that the International Monitoring System--some of which is already in place--did not predict those tests. Of course, the verification system was never intended to predict nuclear weapons tests, only to detect them and to identify the country responsible.

The International Monitoring System and other cooperating seismic stations did a fine job, in fact, of locating the Indian and Pakistani tests and estimating their yield. By comparing this year's data to those from India's 1974 nuclear test and from earthquakes in the region, seismologists have shown that this year's tests were probably much smaller--and less significant in military terms--than India and Pakistan claimed.

Most recently, the Senate voted to fund continued development of the International Monitoring System. The national interest requires that we learn all we can on possible nuclear weapons tests. I am confident that the Senate made the right choice in voting to restore these funds.

When it comes to the Test-Ban Treaty itself, however, the Senate has yet to speak. The Committee on Foreign Relations has yet to hold a hearing, let alone vote on a resolution of ratification.

In the great Sherlock Holmes mystery `The Hound of the Baskervilles' the crucial clue was the dog that did not bark. On this treaty, the Senate has been such a hound.

Now, why won't this dog bark? I think it's because the Senators who keep this body from acting on the Test-Ban Treaty know that it would pass. A good three-quarters of the American people support this treaty. In fact, support for the treaty has increased since the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, despite disparaging comments by some treaty opponents.

Worse yet, as far as some treaty opponents are concerned, India and Pakistan are talking about signing the Test-Ban Treaty. That would chip away mightily at the claim that this treaty will never enter into force, even if we ratify it. The fact is that with U.S. leadership, we can get the world to sign up to a ban on nuclear explosions. I am confident that we will do precisely that.

Treaty opponents have it within their power to stifle America's role in the world and diminish our ability to lead. They also have it within their power, however, to help foster continued American leadership in the coming year and the coming century. I believe that, in the end, their better instincts--and a sober recognition of where the American people stand--will prevail.

The Senate will give its advice and consent to ratification of this treaty--not this year, but next year. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban may be two years old today, but it is also the wave of the future.

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