U.S. President Barack Obama aims to bypass U.S. Congress and rely on the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) to pave the way toward a world without nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post reported on Aug. 4 that President Obama is set to submit a draft resolution calling for a total ban on nuclear tests to the UNSC as early as September. If approved, it would have the same effect as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has not yet entered into force.
In May, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima, where he once again appealed for a world without nuclear weapons. He is intent on establishing a diplomatic legacy of laying down the groundwork toward this goal, with the end of his second and final term in office just five months away.
Daryl G. Kimball, head of the U.S.-based Arms Control Association, welcomed Obama's move, saying that adoption of the draft resolution would lead to the strengthening of international arms control standards.
Kimball and many other nuclear arms experts had been urging the Obama administration to encourage other U.N. member states to adopt a legally binding resolution at the UNSC calling for a total ban on nuclear tests.
A CNN survey showed that the approval rating for President Obama was 54 percent as of the end of July. The president appears to be taking advantage of this favorable rating to pave the way toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
In 1996, then U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the CTBT. However, the Senate refused to ratify the pact in 1999, with the Republican Party arguing that the reliability of nuclear arms could not be maintained without nuclear tests.
Since the Republican Party maintains a majority in Congress, it will be difficult for the United States to ratify the treaty anytime soon. Moreover, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, which have not ratified the CTBT, have not shown any signs that they will.
Among UNSC permanent members, Britain, France and Russia have ratified the CTBT. China, which is trying to determine what actions the U.S. will take, has not yet ratified the pact. India, Pakistan and North Korea are the only countries that have conducted nuclear tests since the CTBT was adopted at a U.N. General Assembly session in 1996. India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 and North Korea conducted its fourth one this past January.
Under such circumstances, many nuclear arms experts believe that if the United States were to submit a draft resolution calling for a total ban on nuclear tests, the UNSC will approve it, with China -- which has veto power -- believed to be unlikely to oppose the resolution. If such a resolution were to be adopted, it would send a clear warning to North Korea not to conduct any further nuclear tests.
Meanwhile, the United States is carrying out subcritical nuclear experiments that do not involve nuclear explosions, which are not banned by the CTBT.
The draft resolution that Washington is set to submit to the UNSC will also likely treat subcritical tests as an exception.
However, if the Obama government were to submit a draft to the UNSC, it would indicate that the administration is bypassing Congress in its efforts to promote a world without nuclear weapons, which could further worsen the president's relations with the legislature.
The Washington Post has reported that top officials in the Obama administration, including Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, have begun to contact senior Congress members behind closed doors in a bid to persuade the legislature to support such a resolution.
In response to The Washington Post report, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told the Mainichi Shimbun that the U.S. administration will continue efforts to persuade Congress to ratify the CTBT, suggesting that the Obama government is not trying to provoke the legislature.