Interview with Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Lassina Zerbo, 50, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), visited Hiroshima for the first time on November 20. The aim of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a total ban on nuclear testing. The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Dr. Zerbo, who is strongly committed to bringing the CTBT into effect by 2017, when his term of office expires.

For the CTBT to take effect, ratification by the eight nuclear powers, including the United States and China, is essential. Reversing his predecessor George W. Bush’s stance, President Barack Obama made a pledge to ratify the treaty. Dr. Zerbo said that ratification by the United States would be an important driving force for the effectuation of the treaty and that he believes the president is sincere. He also said that he visited China this past August, shortly after he took office, and engaged in positive and constructive discussion there.

In September, Dr. Zerbo formed the Group of Eminent Persons, which consists of 18 experts, including former ministers and ambassadors. He hopes this group of people with rich diplomatic experience will encourage the eight nations to ratify the treaty.

The CTBTO, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, maintains about 280 facilities around the world to monitor seismic waves and other data and has detected all three nuclear tests conducted by North Korea after 2006. Dr. Zerbo said that the system of monitoring nuclear tests is nearly complete and that the situation is favorable for the United States and other nations to ratify the treaty.

Visiting Hiroshima for the first time, Dr. Zerbo said he was surprised by the city’s remarkable recovery to prosperity. He hopes that Hiroshima will continue to convey the horror of the atomic bombing and support the effectuation of the CTBT. He added that he will share what he has experienced in Hiroshima to nations which have not yet ratified the treaty.

Dr. Zerbo, a geophysicist from the West African country of Burkina Faso, is visiting at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry of Japan. On November 20, he spoke with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. On November 21, after visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, he will travel to Nagasaki.


Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT, which bans all nuclear tests that produce a nuclear explosion, was adopted at the United Nations in 1996. Out of the 183 nations that signed the treaty, 161 have ratified it. For the treaty to come into force, all 44 nations that have nuclear reactors either for conducting research or generating electricity must ratify it. Of these 44 nations, the United States, China, Egypt, Iran, and Israel have not ratified it. North Korea, India, and Pakistan have yet to sign it.

(Originally published on November 21, 2013)