On Tuesday 15 May, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Han Tae Song, told the Conference on Disarmament that the “Discontinuation of nuclear tests and follow up measures are an important process for global disarmament and DPRK will join international disarmament efforts for a total ban on nuclear tests.”

While Han did not explicitly mention the CTBTO, the organization’s Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo has commended this initial step as an encouraging one. However, with calls for “a permanent and irreversible closure that can be inspected and fully accounted for,” Zerbo points to the CTBTO having “the required expertise, unique verification technology and the much needed international credibility to confirm and monitor the closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear-weapon test site.” Although the CTBTO has not yet received a request to attend the event, the Executive Secretary also made it known that a team for deployment could be put together in a week. In addition, the fact that North Korea has not signed the CTBT “is not an impediment to make our technology available for the international community,” said Zerbo.

In the event that CTBTO is asked to contribute to verifying the dismantlement in the long term, a formal invitation or agreement would be required. The work would then be carried out with CTBTO inspectors in the field in North Korea, but also through the analysis of data received by various measurement stations that the CTBTO has certified around the Korean Peninsula. Verification would take “weeks” and could involve setting up “micro-arrays” of noble gas and spectral imaging equipment within a 50-kilometer (30-mile) radius of the test site, says Zerbo.

Indeed, what is crucial is that “in times of tension and insecurity, what we need is to make full use and promote extensively what we already have. These are – effectively verifiable and credibly enforceable negotiated agreements,” said Zerbo whilst addressing the situation on the Korean Peninsula at a panel on “Effective Multilateralism in a globalized world – The case of Europe and Asia Pacific” on 16 May.

With a lot at stake in light of the recent developments in North Korea’s political decisions, “Let us not reinvent the wheel. We already have the necessary tools. What is needed is the political will of states to use them,” concludes Zerbo in his speech.


Dr. Lassina Zerbo , Executive Secretaty of the Preparatory Commision for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation

For more information, consult the following sources:

Lassina Zerbo OSCE speech



AFP/The Straits Times

La Vanguardia in Spanish


Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | May 17, 2018

Shutting down Punggye Ri



In an article from Atomic Reporters, Tariq Rauf, a consultant with the CTBTO, discusses the dismantlement of North Korea’s test site Punggye Ri, that will take place between 23-25 May 2018, which journalists from China, the Russian Federation, the U.K. and the U.S. are invited to witness. The author points out that even though journalists have experience in covering nuclear related matters, they are not nuclear-weapon or verification experts.

He points out that the IAEA has expertise in monitoring and verification of nuclear safety and security, but that the CTBTO has the required expertise and credibility to verify an agreement on the closure of the test site. Rauf explains that “the IAEA monitors the “upstream” dimension of nuclear weapons development, while the CTBT is intended to monitor the “downstream” final proof of a State’s intention to develop nuclear weapons—that is, the actual nuclear test explosion.”

According to the official announcement by the DPRK, the procedure of closing down the nuclear test site would involve collapsing the tunnels by explosion, completely blocking entries and removing all observation facilities, research institutes and structures on the ground.


Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | May 11, 2018

Lassina Zerbo, Backing up Nuclear Disarmament

In a Science Magazine editorial by Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) examines recent geopolitical developments regarding nuclear testing and the impact the CTBT, along with the Organization, can have on global affairs. Zerbo analyzes these new developments and illustrates the CTBTO’s ever-growing importance stating “this is precisely why an immovable global disarmament and nonproliferation architecture, based on instruments including the NPT and the CTBT, constitutes a firm foundation for a future of peace and security.”

Highlighting the importance of the CTBTO’s verification regime and in particular its International Monitoring System (IMS), Zerbo says: “This monitoring system is crucial to future denuclearization in North Korea. The CTBTO’s confirmation of a nuclear test by North Korea on 3 September 2017 once again showed how the Treaty’s verification regime is already working for the benefit of the international community. But the only way to secure this benefit for all time is to bring the treaty into force. Adherence to the treaty by all parties concerned is the only way to overcome the trust deficit that is a real impediment to progress on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to building trust and confidence in the Middle East.”

Zerbo reminds the international community to remain vigilant and proactive, asserting that “diplomacy, backed up by rigorous science-based verification tools, remains the key to unlocking real security. Let’s not rethink that.”

Read the full article here.

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