China promises progress on nuke test ban, worries about North Korea and Iran
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 04, 2003
China on Thursday reassured a UN conference here that it hoped to ratify a key nuclear test ban treaty soon, saying the matter had become urgent in the light of events in North Korea and Iran.

"The Chinese government will continue to do its utmost to have the ratification procedure completed by the National People's Congress at an early date," Zhang Yan, the Chinese ambassador to Vienna, told the three-day meeting.

China is one of nine Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signatories who have not ratified the treaty.

Also among them are the United States, the world's biggest nuclear power, and Iran, whom Washington accuses of seeking nuclear arms.

North Korea, India and Pakistan have not signed the treaty.

"We are doubling our efforts to get a ratification as early as possible of the treaty. The non-proliferation situation is more serious than ever before. There are North Korean issues, Iranian issues," a member of the Chinese delegation to the conference told AFP.

The secretary-general of the meeting, Wolfgang Hoffman, was optimistic that ratification by the Chinese parliament, to whom the treaty was referred in 1999, was imminent.

"We will see a Chinese ratification, rather sooner that later," he said. "To ratify they need a broad consensus, ... I feel that this broad consensus is evolving."

But in Beijing the foreign ministry said Thursday that though the government hoped for "early ratification" they could not clarify when it would happen.

The conference, which opened Wednesday, has been clouded by a decision by the North Korean parliament to endorse Pyongyang's nuclear build-up.

Like the United States, North Korea has not sent delegates to the meeting.

The Chinese delegation said they hoped however that if China were to ratify "it could help the international community to continue its efforts to try to convince the United States."

But they stressed that a change of heart from Washington was not a precondition for progress in Beijing, telling AFP: "Ratification is not connected with American ratification."

The United States, which is studying new kinds of small "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons, in 1996 became the first state to sign the CTBT.

But the US Senate in 2000 refused to ratify the treaty and Washington has since indicated it has no intention of doing so.