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Biden Urges Senate To Ratify Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden says the United States will ask for concrete commitments from other nations to secure their loose nuclear material at a summit this April in Washington.

In a speech on February 18 at the country's National Defense University, Biden called nuclear proliferation the single biggest threat facing the world and repeated President Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear arms.

Obama first laid out his vision for a nuclear-free world during a speech in Prague in April 2009. He vowed to use his time in the White House to secure vulnerable stockpiles.

In April, the U.S. president will host a summit in Washington that brings together representatives from 44 countries to discuss ways to secure the world's loose nuclear material within four years.

Biden said the summit will ask countries for specific promises.

"It's a very high priority. We cannot wait, we cannot wait for an act of nuclear terrorism before coming together to share the best practices and raise security standards. And we will seek firm commitments from our partners to do just that, in April," Biden said.

Biden also urged the U.S. Senate to finally ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which stalled in Congress in 1999.

The treaty was adopted by the UN in 1996 but has not come into force because nine states have not yet ratified it. Of the nine, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and the United States have signed it, but India, North Korea and Pakistan have not.

The last time the treaty came up for a vote in Congress, it failed to win approval by 19 votes. Biden called it "as important as ever" today.

The U.S. vice president also sounded optimistic about the prospect of wrapping up negotiations soon with Russia on a successor to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START), which expired in December.

Talks are currently under way in Geneva but the U.S. decision to ask Romania to host part of its missile defense system has ruffled Moscow's feathers and threatened to disrupt the negotiation progress.

Biden said a new treaty will be an essential component of the international non-proliferation effort.

For all the talk of reducing arsenals, Biden made it clear that the United States won't be shrinking its own until the rest of the world's nuclear powers show a similar commitment.

Obama's 2011 budget request asks Congress to spend some $600 million more than it did last year to maintain the country's aging nuclear stockpiles.