Nuclear treaty crucial for stability in region, CTBTO chief says

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Nuclear treaty crucial for stability in region, CTBTO chief says

“There is no room for nuclear tests” in North Korea thanks to an upgraded international monitoring system, said Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the preparatory committee for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

The chief of the CTBTO, a Vienna-based organization made up of 183 countries, sat down for an interview with Korean reporters on Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul.

When the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted in 1996, Pakistan and India were watched carefully, he pointed out, but “after 2000, North Korea became the biggest concern for the CTBTO.”

The multilateral treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York and prohibited countries from carrying out nuclear weapon tests or any other nuclear activities.

However, it has yet to enter into force since eight of the 44 nuclear-armed countries in the agreement have yet to ratify it.

While China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed the treaty, they have not officially ratified it. India, Pakistan and North Korea have not signed it.

“We moved from thousands of nuclear tests to nearly none, and there have been only those three tests from [North Korea this] century,” Zerbo said, adding that he hoped North Korea would proclaim a nuclear moratorium and sign the treaty.

He urged Pyongyang “to join the consensus on nuclear testing and contribute to regional peace and security.”

Zerbo also emphasized there will be no place for Pyongyang to stand in the international community should it pursue its nuclear tests.

Likewise, he called upon countries like the United States and China to ratify the treaty to build a legally binding framework that would stop any nation from conducting a nuclear test, adding that 90 percent of countries have declared that they will not.

Zerbo, from Burkina Faso, became chief of the CTBTO in August 2013 and previously served as the director of the organization’s International Data Center, where he supervised the monitoring of North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, as well as the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake disaster in Japan. He previously served as a research geophysicist at BHP Minerals International.

He said that he would like to visit North Korea should Pyongyang extend an invitation and added that he plans to explain the role of the treaty to the reclusive state, which plans to participate in an upcoming nuclear security summit in Moscow.

Zerbo also met with Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Wednesday to discuss North Korea and nonproliferation, as well as how to prevent future nuclear tests and increase cooperation between South Korea and the CTBTO.

They agreed to hold a meeting of the CTBTO’s Group of Eminent Persons, comprised of ministers and former prime ministers of relevant nations, to focus on advancing the ratification of the nuclear test ban treaty in Korea by 2015.

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