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CHINA AND THE TEST BAN

21 June 1996

Addendum to a note titled "The Comprehensive Test Ban" [28 February 1996]

Bruce D. Larkin

Professor of Politics

University of California at Santa Cruz

CONTENTS
1China: main issues
2Will China sign? Ratify?
3Meaning of China's 44th Nuclear Test?
4'Negative guarantees.'
5'No first use.'
6'Peaceful' nuclear explosions (PNEs).
7On-site inspection (OSI).
8Entry into force (EIF).
9The 'universality' criterion.
10A commitment to abolition?
·Sources and Footnotes
·Reading Footnotes
*Related Sites and Sources

What are the main issues on which China conditions its acceptance of a CTB?

[1] a negative guarantee to non-nuclear weapon states
[2] a 'no-first-use' guarantee
[3] review of 'peaceful nuclear explosions' (PNEs) in ten years
[4] on-site inspection (OSI) approval by 2/3
[5] OSI based on international monitoring

Will China sign a CTBT? Ratify?

According to press accounts, China told a negotiating panel on 18 June that Beijing would not sign unless there were provision for review of a ban on 'peaceful nuclear explosions' (PNEs). With such threats on the table, there will be no knowing until the moment for signing arrives. [China was not alone in bringing a threat not to sign to bear on the final stages of the negotiation. India said it would not sign if there were no clause requiring nuclear disarmament by a fixed date, and Pakistan then repeated its long-standing position that it would not sign if India did not sign.] China has long called for a 'universal' treaty, but there is no indication she would insist on 'universality' as a condition of signing (as distinguished from China's ratifying the treaty, or its entry into force).

An educated guess is that China will not refuse to sign. Her objections to some terms will be adequately met, or set on the shelf, or be the subject of reservations. China will not bear the burden, alone or with India, for preventing an agreed CTBT. But that is only because this is the phase of drafting and signing, after which a complex politics may take years or even decades to be played out as states consider whether to ratify the CTBT. China is positioning herself to remain free to test during the ratification phase if internal debates lead to a decision to test. If this projection is correct, China will

On this estimate, China need not resume tests at all. But at the same time China will not relinquish the possibility of resumption. Moreover, advocates of the CTBT can say to their internal colleagues who are suspicious of it, or opposed to it, that there is enough room to test if circumstances 'require' testing.

The present [second] session of the Conference on Disarmament ends on 28 June. This has been the target date for a completed text, if a final proposal is to go to the General Assembly in September. In these days there remain many issues, of which the terms for 'entry into force' are among the most central. The chairman's draft provides that EIF take place upon approval by the 37 states with monitoring stations, a device to include the 5 declared NW states and 3 'threshold' states without so stipulating. In that case India's and Pakistan's positions become critical. But on 20 June 1996 Indian Foreign Secretary Salman Haider told a press conference that "India cannot subscribe to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in its present form," as it failed to include an express requirement for nuclear disarmament. 1 The next day Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sardar Asif Ahmad Ali, said that the CTBT would be meaningless if it lacked the signature of any of the eight nuclear-capable states. 2

India's action would not prevent a CTBT from being widely agreed and signed, but it would both force continued discussion of a nuclear disarmament commitment and open space for refusal of ratification and an extended period during which EIF might prove unachievable. It is this space, created by India's refusal to sign, that would allow China maneuvering room.

And if China's political judgment has anticipated deadlock between insistence on a 'universal' CTBT and one or more NW state's refusal to sign, that may have eased the fears of whomever among Chinese practitioners most values the prospect of a future test resumption. Of course, China herself has urged a 'universal' treaty: "a fair, reasonable and verifiable treaty with universal adherence and unlimited duration." 3

In effect, China has found a position which makes signing a CTBT yield some benefits and no real costs. In doing that, they are simply following in the footsteps of the other nuclear weapon states, but adapting their position to their relatively greater 'need' to test if they were to choose to develop and deploy new designs.

What is the significance of China's 44th NW test on 8 June 1996?

Even before the test--two days before--China's ambassador to the CD relaxed one condition which China had been deploying during the early months of 1996: the 'PNE condition.' Now, said Sha Zukang, China would accept "a temporary ban on peaceful nuclear explosions." 4 Of course, this may have been an effort to cushion anticipated criticism--as well as recognition that the PNE gambit was not garnering wide support.

As late as 3 June, China's ranking diplomat in Japan told the Japan National Press Club, in response to a query when China would announce a test halt, that China would halt only after a CTBT had entered into force, not upon its being signed. 5 This position had been refined and stated with consistent clarity during the preceding five months.

When the test had taken place, Beijing acknowledged it and declared that after one further test it would join the other declared NW states in a 'moratorium' on nuclear testing. Of course, Beijing may see a big difference between a 'moratorium'--which carries meanings of 'postponement' and 'delay'--and a definitive test halt. On that interpretation, there would be no inconsistency between entering a moratorium in 1996 and reserving the right to resume tests at some later point prior to a CTBT's entering into force.

A reasonable inference from the timing of China's statement is that an internal consensus on a testing halt had been achieved subject to the condition that the 8 June test succeed. A further inference is that the projected August or September test will not concern features judged vital by those charged to deploy a capable nuclear force. On this logic, the 8 June test may have proven the design of the warhead for one or more of China's three forthcoming platforms: a next-generation solid-fuel land-based missile (the DF-41), and the shorter-range DF-31 mobile missile and its JL-2 SLBM variant. The projected test could concern either marginal performance enhancements, such as reduced weight to achieve greater range, or safety provisons, such as initiating the primary with 'insensitive high explosive.' The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement declared safety the aim of the next test.

What is China's position on negative guarantees to non-nuclear weapon states?

China states there should be a negative guarantee to non-nuclear weapon states in the preface.

What is China's position on a 'no-first-use' guarantee?

[See above.]

What is China's position on PNEs?

China seeks a separate article in the CTB stating that PNEs would be discussed at the 10-year Review Conference unless specifically voted from the agenda. It is this point on which China reportedly insisted in test ban panel negotiations on 18 June.

What could the point of this be? PNEs were conducted by the Soviet Union and pursued seriously for a time by the United States. In the climate of the 1990s, however, there is scant sympathy for deliberate nuclear explosions.

A speculation on China's reasons for pressing for an opening to PNEs--even ten or more years later, and then requiring unanimous consent--might canvass possibilities on the following lines. There is no evidence for any of these speculations:

[1] Maintain testing capability:

[2] Honor prior internal commitment: [3] Lay claim to resources:

Whatever China's actual reasons for pressing even a highly qualified reference to PNEs, most observers will see it as a move to dilute and perhaps evade the purpose of a CTBT.

· · ·

What is China's position on OSI?

China would confine OSIs to those prompted by international monitoring. States party could not initiate a call for OSI on their own information.

China would then require a 2/3 vote. Others propose a simple majority.

What is China's position on EIF?

China's position on entry into force, as stated by Ambassdor Sha Zukang on 8 February 1996, is that there must be a treaty "acceptable to all parties." The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement of 8 June 1996 took much the same position in urging a treaty "with universal adherence and unlimited duration." A Chinese Xinhua report on 16 June, however, seemed to introduce some flexibility: a compromise might be reached on the five declared, three threshold, and "a certain number of other nations." But Ambassador Sha then appeared to reject any such formula, stipulating on 27 June 1996 that China's position on entry into force remained unchanged. She also [as reported by Kyodo] "warned against naming China and Pakistan as among nations whose signing is a must for making the treaty binding." The effect of the Chinese position is to require universality, and insist that the terms for entry into force be phrased in such a way that no state is singled out by name.

Rebecca Johnson puts China among states adhering to the 68-nation IAEA list.

In what terms does China advocate a 'universality' criterion?

China has urged a 'universal' treaty: "a fair, reasonable and verifiable treaty with universal adherence and unlimited duration." 7

Does China agree that the preamble should contain a reference to abolition?

China wishes a preambular reference to the aim of abolition.


SOURCES and NOTES

1 Reuters, 20 June 1996.

2 Kyodo, 21 June 1996.

3 Chinese Foreign Ministry statement, 8 June 1996.

4 The New York Times, 7 June 1996,

5 Wu Dawei, reported by Kyodo, 3 June 1996.

6 At this writing, there is no confirmation of a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun [12 June 1996] that the 8 June test event included the simultaneous detonation of 'more than two' nuclear devices.

7 Chinese Foreign Ministry statement, 8 June 1996.


ON READING THE NOTES

I suggest opening a second browser window to this text, perhaps at the bottom of your screen, if you wish to follow the footnotes with the greatest convenience.


Related Sources and Sites

  • The most valuable source of ongoing reportage concerning the Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations (and other arms control and disarmament issues) is prepared by the ACRONYM Consortium and issued by Dfax as Nuclear Proliferation News [1994-95] and, then, Disarmament Diplomacy [1996 - ..].

  • Issues of Disarmament Diplomacy contain ongoing reports of the Conference on Disarmament written by Rebecca Johnson, director of the Disarmament Intelligence Review (London). See also Ms. Johnson's "Endgame Issues in Geneva: Can the CD Deliver the CTBT in 1996?" in Arms Control Today, April 1996, pp. 12-18. Arms Control Today is published by the Arms Control Association (Washington).

  • An ACRONYM Consortium member, the British-American Security Information Council, publishes Basic Reports and maintains a web site with material on nuclear non-proliferation and a proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention.

  • A searchable list of tests and data from the Australian Seismological Centre, Canberra, is maintained by the Australian Geographic Survey Office..

  • Greenpeace also maintains a web site, with information on its nuclear-related activities.

  • The Institut für Geophysik at Bochum maintains a page with a map of the French test site, test locations, and a graphic showing depths around the atolls.


    The Author

    The author, Bruce D. Larkin, maintains a home page with information about other work he has written on the subject of nuclear weapon control.


    NUCLEAR POLICY STUDIES: GRAPHICS & TEXTS: LINKS:
    Nuclear Designs: Great Britain, France, and China in the Global Governance of Nuclear Arms
    [Transaction Publishers, 1996]

    British SSBNs

    French SNLEs
    Other Sites
    "Comprehensive Test Ban" [28 February 1996] and a 21 June 1996 addendum on China's CTB policy. The Acheson-Lilienthal Report [16 March 1946]: Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy. Re CTB

    Created 96.06.21.
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    Acknowledgments and Revision History

    96.06.27 Section on entry clarified, with current citation. 96.06.21 Created.

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