- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2016

President Obama’s plan to call for a United Nations resolution to end nuclear testing is a largely symbolic move that won’t sway North Korea’s belligerence and has further antagonized Congress, analysts say.

Mr. Obama is expected to push for an end to nuclear testing next month on the 20th anniversary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a move that Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, is calling “an affront to Congress.” Congressional sources say senators, who have never ratified the treaty, are considering options to express their disapproval of the president’s action.

“This is an extremely troubling decision that ignores fundamental concerns about such a ban and is dangerously erosive of the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution,” Heritage Foundation analysts Brett D. Schaefer and Michaela Dodge wrote in a blog post. “It continues a pattern, also used on the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement, of circumventing Congress to advance the president’s priorities that lack congressional support.”

Worse, they said, the resolution “is unlikely to have any effect on the nuclear proliferating countries that the U.S. is concerned about. Countries like North Korea, for instance, have continued to test in the face of existing Security Council resolutions and sanctions.”

North Korea is believed to have conducted four underground nuclear tests, most recently in January.

A White House spokesman said Monday that nonproliferation “will feature broadly” during the administration’s discussions at the U.N. next month but offered no details about Mr. Obama’s plans.

Republican lawmakers say the president’s expected move, even if confined to a rhetorical gesture, will burnish his legacy of making end runs around Congress when the legislative branch frustrates his goals.

Mr. Corker said the White House “devised a plan to keep the United States Senate and Congress in general from weighing in on an important agreement that’s going to limit our ability to ensure our nuclear deterrent is in place.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican and a prominent critic of the Iran nuclear deal, said the development is “little surprising, considering President Obama has repeatedly tried to circumvent Congress to force his will on the American people.”

“Going to the United Nations on a paramount issue like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty outsources the credibility of our nuclear deterrent to an international body on which Russia and China have a veto — two countries who we know will not abide by a nuclear test ban,” Mr. Cotton said. “But more than that, trying to force the CTBT on the American people is yet another foreign policy blunder by President Obama — one that will endanger our national security by giving both our enemies and our allies reason to question the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.”

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Mr. Obama’s call for “a politically binding” resolution at the U.N. Security Council “would reinforce the global norm against nuclear weapon test explosions.”

He disputed Mr. Corker’s assertion that the move would “cede the Senate’s constitutional role” on advice and consent of the 1996 treaty. The initiative, he said, would simply urge nations that haven’t ratified the treaty to do so and call on all states to refrain from further testing.

The association said a response from lawmakers such as withholding the U.S. contribution to the global test monitoring system “could undermine long-term U.S. security by eroding our ability to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions by countries such as Russia and Iran.”

The U.S. hasn’t conducted a nuclear test since 1992. Mr. Schaefer and Ms. Dodge said the number of nations with nuclear weapons has increased since the U.S. stopped testing and that the treaty “remains problematic.”

“American nuclear weapons are aging and the U.S. has not conducted a test since 1992,” they wrote. “As designs depart from the tested envelope, the uncertainty with respect to expected performance of nuclear warheads will increase. The United States must preserve an option for conducting yield-producing experiments to make sure its nuclear warheads are safe, secure, reliable and effective. Such is the cornerstone of strategic deterrence and assurance of U.S. allies.”

Mr. Obama came into office calling for reductions in nuclear stockpiles but hasn’t met that goal, nonproliferation groups say.

“With Russia and the U.S. possessing around 95 percent of the 15,000 warheads in the world, America holds great responsibility to move the world towards zero nuclear weapons,” said Paul Kawika Martin, political director of Peace Action. “While President Obama has consistently said he believes in a nuclear-weapon-free world and has taken some steps such as reducing their role in U.S. security plans, negotiating the New START treaty and leading several international nuclear security summits, he has reduced nuclear weapon stockpiles the least of all post-Cold War presidents.”

He said Mr. Obama should use his remaining five months in office to declare that the U.S. won’t use nuclear weapons first in certain scenarios, will take U.S. weapons off of “high alert” and will cut funding for upgrading the U.S. arsenal.

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