Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs meets with Executive Secretary of the CTBTO to discuss promoting the CTBT's entry into force

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith (left) meets with the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, Tibor Tóth (right) in Canberra, Australia.

The Australian Government renewed calls for universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) during recent discussions between the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, and Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). The Treaty's "entry into force is an immediate disarmament and non-proliferation priority," Smith stated: "The CTBT offers a vital framework for disarmament and non-proliferation objectives, but a decade after its negotiation it is not yet in force."

Smith expressed Australia's commitment to urging the nine Annex 2 States that have not yet ratified the CTBT to do so. These States, whose ratification is necessary for the Treaty's entry into force, are: China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. Smith also announced that: "…there is much Australia can contribute to cultivating greater support for disarmament and non-proliferation within our region."

Smith referred to the effectiveness of the global network of monitoring stations, which was demonstrated "when critical information was provided about the North Korean nuclear test in October 2006."

Discussions between Smith and Tóth also focused on ways in which the CTBT can contribute to tsunami warnings in the region. A Memorandum of Understanding to help strengthen warnings for Australia and the region in the event of a possible tsunami will soon be signed between Australia and the CTBTO.

Infrasound station IS05 in Hobart, Australia, which was certified on 22 December 2003.

During his recent visit to Australia, Tóth also met with the President of the Senate, Senator Alan Ferguson, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr. Other meetings included roundtable discussions with representatives from government ministries and agencies concerned with non-proliferation issues as well as several meetings with media representatives.

Australia has traditionally taken a strong stand on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. It is a member of the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, which was established under the Treaty of Rarotonga in 1985. Australia played a key role in the conception of the CTBT, having been active in the Treaty's negotiations from 1994 to 1996. In September 1996, the former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, presented the Treaty to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which enabled its overwhelming adoption. Australia signed the Treaty the day it opened for signature on 24 September 1996 and ratified it on 9 July 1998.

In 2002 Australia, in cooperation with Japan and the Netherlands, initiated the "Friends of the CTBT" Foreign Ministers Meeting. The meeting took place on the margins of the UNGA in New York and resulted in the First Joint Ministerial Statement, which identified the CTBT as central to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It called on all States that had not yet signed or ratified the CTBT - especially those whose ratification is needed for entry into force - to do so. More than 50 foreign ministers associated themselves with the Joint Ministerial Statement. The initiative was repeated with Australia as one of the convening countries in 2004 and 2006, when 72 foreign ministers reaffirmed their support for the Treaty and called upon "all States to make maximum efforts toward the early entry into force of the CTBT."

Alexander Downer subsequently served as Conference President at the Conference on Faciliating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in September 2005, where he announced: "Taking on this role is a further sign of Australia's unwavering support for the Treaty and its entry into force." Australia also acted as coordinator of international efforts to promote the Treaty's entry into force from September 2005 to July 2007.

Australia will host a total of 21 of the 337 monitoring facilities which are part of the global alarm system that the CTBTO is building to monitor compliance with the CTBT. The system monitors the Earth for evidence of nuclear explosions. 17 of Australia's facilities have already been installed and certified as meeting all necessary technical requirements and are currently sending data to the International Data Centre in Vienna.