White House Statement on the Soviet-United States Nuclear Testing Talks


December 15, 1988


The United States and the Soviet Union today concluded the third round of Nuclear Testing Talks (NTT) in Geneva. This round, which began on August 29, has been a successful one, highlighted by the completion of the Joint Verification Experiment (JVE) and by significant progress toward the completion of effective verification protocols for the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET) and the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT).


These talks are part of step-by-step negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on the subject of nuclear testing. The first priority of the talks is agreement on effective verification measures for two existing treaties, the PNET and TTBT. Neither treaty has been ratified because they were not verifiable in their original form. During this round, the delegations have substantially finished work on the verification protocol for the PNET. They have also made progress on the verification protocol for the TTBT.


Another noteworthy event during this round was the Joint Verification Experiment (JVE). Under the terms of a U.S.-Soviet agreement negotiated in the previous round of the NTT and signed at the Moscow summit, underground nuclear explosions were conducted at the U.S. test site in Nevada in August and at the Soviet test site at Semipalatinsk in September, with observers from both sides present. The purpose of the JVE was to allow each side to demonstrate its preferred verification method for the TTBT and PNET. The results of the test were discussed during this round. We believe the experiments demonstrated the effectiveness and nonintrusive nature of CORRTEX, our preferred method of on-site measurement.


Once the verification provisions for the PNET and TTBT are finalized, the treaties will be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. Following ratification, the United States will immediately propose that we and the Soviet Union enter into negotiations on ways to implement a step-by-step parallel program -- in association with a program to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear arms -- of limiting and ultimately ending nuclear testing.


For the past four decades, a strong nuclear deterrent has ensured the security of the United States and our allies. As long as we must rely on nuclear weapons, we must continue to test to ensure their safety, security, reliability, effectiveness, and survivability. In this context, the United States seeks effective and verifiable agreements with the Soviet Union on nuclear-testing limitations that would strengthen security for all nations. The substantial progress which has been made in this round of the Nuclear Testing Talks is a positive step which reflects the success of the administration's practical and measured approach to nuclear testing.