This week also marks one year since the President transmitted the CTBT to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. Unfortunately, one year later the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to hold its first hearing on this historic treaty.
Mr. President, this delay in considering the Treaty not only hinders the Senate from carrying out its constitutional duties; in light of the events in India and Pakistan, it is irresponsible for the Senate to continue to do nothing. It is irresponsible for the security of this nation and the world.
The Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May served as a wake up call for the world. We are confronted with the very risk of a nuclear arms race beginning in South Asia. India and Pakistan, as well as their neighbors, have emerged less secure as a result of these tests. I believe that these tests demonstrate the tragic significance of the Senate's failure to take action on the CTBT. We can no longer afford to ignore our responsibility to debate and vote on the treaty.
Today's press reports that both India and Pakistan have stated their intention to sign the CTBT by September 1999. I want to welcome these announcements by India and Pakistan. The steps are in part the result of an intensive U.S. diplomatic effort, and I congratulate the Administration on this success. India's and Pakistan's commitment to halt nuclear testing is critical to reducing tensions and preventing a nuclear arms race in South Asia.
The adherence of India and Pakistan to the CTBT will also enhance prospects for the treaty to enter into force sooner. According to its provisions the CTBT will enter into force when 44 countries have nuclear technology have ratified it. With India's and Pakistan's signatures, all 44 of these countries except one, North Korea, will have signed the CTBT. The addition of India and Pakistan as Treaty signatories marks a significant step toward making the CTBT a reality.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Senate begin its consideration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Senate action on the CTBT would send a clear signal to India and Pakistan that nuclear testing must stop. It would strengthen U.S. diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions between these two countries and persuade them to give up their nuclear ambitions. But signature of the CTBT by India and Pakistan is only the first step in the process of bringing stability to South Asia. Senate action on the CTBT can help build momentum as additional measures are sought for defusing the violative situation.
Ratification of the CTBT is also critical to U.S. leadership in strengthening the international nonproliferation regime. The risk of nuclear proliferation remains a clear and immediate security threat to the international community as a whole.
Our efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation have produced significant successes this decade. Several countries, including South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina have abandoned nuclear weapons programs. Under the START Treaty nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
The United States must continue to lead international efforts to halt and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons. For the United States to be effective in strengthening international nonproliferation measures, we need to demonstrate our own commitment to a universal legal norm against nuclear testing.
U.S. ratification of the CTBT is in our national security interest. The United States has observed a testing moratorium since 1992. The other declared nuclear weapons states, Britain, France, Russia, and China, have joined us in halting their nuclear testing programs. It is in our interest for these countries to continue to refrain from such testing, which might otherwise contribute to their designing more advanced weapons that are smaller and more threatening.
The treaty would not prevent the United States from doing anything we otherwise would plan to do, There is no need for renewed U.S. nuclear testing. Nuclear weapons experts from my home State of New Mexico tell me that they have a high level of confidence in the reliability and safety of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
We are committed through the Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensuring the future safety and reliability of our stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing. Our strong support for this program in the years ahead is critical for U.S. national security under a comprehensive test-ban regime.
Mr. President, the American people recognize the grave danger that a new nuclear arms race in South Asia would pose, not only to U.S. national security but also to the security of the international community. They understand that further nuclear testing threatens to undermine international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That's why a recent nationwide poll conducted by the Mellman Group found that 73 percent of the American public believe that the Senate should approve the CTBT, while only 16 percent believe we should disapprove the treaty (11 percent responded `don't know'). This finding of overwhelming support for the treaty occurred after India conducted is nuclear tests.
Therefore, I urge the Senate to begin debate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I have sent a letter to the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee requesting that the Committee begin holding hearings on this historic treaty. We need to bring in the experts from the military, intelligence, and scientific communities so we can hear what they have to say. I believe that through such hearings Senators' concerns will be resolved in favor of a CTBT.
For the sake of our security and that of future generations, we must not let this historic opportunity to achieve a global end to nuclear testing slipaway.