ASEAN Wooing Nuclear Powers on Disarmament Push

29 July, 2011 | Source: The Jakarta Post

ASEAN is set to let the ball roll on having five nuclear weapon states sign the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty protocols after reaching a consensus on the issue.

ASEAN will bring four main elements to the 2007-2012 plan of action as its member states’ common reference for future consultation with the nuclear weapon states, Foreign Minister and current chair of ASEAN Marty Natalegawa said Monday after a SEANWFZ commission meeting at the ministerial level.

The four discussion points endorsed during that meeting were, compliance with the undertaking of the SEANWFZ Treaty, accession by nuclear weapon states, cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other partners and the institution arrangement, he said.

“There was special emphasis on the second element, namely accession by nuclear weapon states. It is because this is one area I think we have made considerable progress on over the past several months,” he told a press briefing here.

“[With the endorsement of the discussion points] the ASEAN member countries will have the discussion points as their common position and reference in their consultations with the nuclear weapon states.”

Marty said the four discussion points would be brought before the nuclear weapon states at the technical level in the first week of August, while at the same time he would conduct similar communication with the nuclear weapon states’ foreign ministers as requested by the other ASEAN members.

“We have nuclear safety, security and proliferation reasons. For all those reasons, the nuclear weapon-free zone is good to go,” he said.

He said pending issues that had stalled the accession to the treaty by the nuclear weapon states were zone of application, sovereignty, transit and port visits and negative security assurances, in addition to the absence of direct consultation between ASEAN and the nuclear weapon states.

The ministry’s director for international security and disarmament, Febrian Alphyanto Ruddyard, said the nuclear weapon states had to sign the protocols of the treaty in order to have the treaty applied in the region vis-à-vis by the nuclear weapon states.

The nuclear weapon states are the US, the UK, Russia, France and China. Until now, only China has expressed its readiness to sign the treaty protocols.

Febrian said ASEAN wanted the weapon states to sign the protocols at the same time despite China’s readiness, to avoid different treatment of nuclear weapon states.

It is believed that the nuclear weapon states refused to sign the protocols largely due to US and French objections over the unequivocal nature of security assurances and the definitions of territory, including exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The treaty zone covers the territories, continental shelves and EEZs of the party states within the zone.

China in particular objected to the treaty’s inclusion of the Southeast Asian signatories’ continental shelves and EEZs, arguing that this prejudiced its own extensive claims in the South China Sea.

According to a source at the ministry, nuclear weapon states, in particular the US, objected to an ASEAN term that bans vessels carrying nuclear weapons or nuclear materials from entering EEZ of ASEAN countries, arguing that it is in violation of principles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The source said ASEAN would not revise the treaty but would instead find a way to address the deadlock.

 

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