2000 World Conference against A & H Bombs - Hiroshima
Special Program (1)

Panyarak Poolthup
Embassy of Thailand

The Establishment of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ)

1. Background
The establishment of nuclear weapon-free zone plays a significant part in strengthening the nuclear disarmament process, as well as the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty (Bangkok Treaty) was signed on 15 December 1997 in Bangkok by all ten countries of Southeast Asia, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It has entered into force since 27 March 1997. Out of ten ASEAN countries, only the Philippines has not yet ratified the Treaty. The Treaty was registered with the United Nations on 2 June 1997.

The Treaty symbolizes the attempts of the ASEAN countries to advance the cause of peace and stability in the region and the nuclear non-proliferation regime as a whole. It is thus consistent with the long-standing programme to ensure that Southeast Asia becomes a Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN). It is also in line with the objectives enunciated on nuclear weapon-free zones contained in the decisions on “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” taken by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 1995 Review and Extension Conference.

Since the entry into force of the Bangkok Treaty, the Treaty Parties have been proceeding on 2 tracks, firstly in the implementation of the Treaty provisions, and secondly on obtaining support for the Treaty and its Protocol from the five Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). Substantial progress has been made on both tracks.

2. Implementation of Treaty Provisions

2.1 Establishment of Executive Organs under the Bangkok Treaty

On the first track, an important step forward in the implementation of the Bangkok Treaty was the convening of the Inaugural Meeting of the Commission for SEANWFZ, comprising the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, in Singapore on 24 July 1999. At the Inaugural Meeting, the Commission directed its Executive Committee to initiate all necessary actions to ensure compliance with the Treaty.

The Executive Committee met for the first time in Bangkok on 12 October 1999 and took a decision to launch a dialogue with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to establish a Working Group to undertake discussions with the IAEA.

Now that the organs of the Treaty have been established, the task of establishing detailed verification and control procedures can proceed. The Executive Committee through its Working Group has been undertaking consultations with the IAEA and other relevant international organizations in this regard. At the same time, the Treaty Parties are also considering the Rules of Procedure and Financial Rules governing the work of the various organs.

2.2 Relations with the IAEA and Other International Organizations

Recognizing that the IAEA has an important role to play in assisting the Treaty Parties to fulfill their obligations under the Treaty, a dialogue between the Treaty Parties and the IAEA was established. A number of issues being discussed in detailed consultations include the question of IAEA support in implementing the provisions with respect to safeguards and handling of nuclear wastes, as well as possible assistance in terms of technical cooperation programmes for the Treaty Parties. In addition, all Treaty Parties have been encouraged to conclude a full scope safeguards agreement with the IAEA in accordance with Article 5 of the Treaty.

3. Consultations with the NWS on the Protocol to the Treaty
Equally important to the efforts on the first track are the efforts on the second track relating to the Treaty Parties’ on-going consultations with the five NWS for them to accede to the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty. ASEAN attaches great importance to this objective because the Treaty would have greater meaning if the NWS undertake to support SEANWFZ by way of their accession to the Protocol.

In this regard, since the signing of the Treaty and even before the Treaty came into effect, ASEAN has been engaged in an on-going process of consultations with the five NWS in the hope that they could accede to the Protocol as early as possible. Each of the five NWS has indicated reservations with various parts of the Protocol as well as the Treaty itself. Some of these reservations are common to most of the NWS, particularly with regard to the question of the zone of application of the Treaty and its implication for their respective nuclear deterrence policies. China, already declared no-first-use policy, is the only NWS which has expressed her readiness to sign the Protocol to SEANWFZ Treaty. China’s main concern relates to the implication of the Treaty on the question of sovereignty in the South China Sea. ASEAN-China consultation has been fruitful and now China’s concern has been resolved.

ASEAN is now actively undertaking further consultations with the remaining four NWS in order to address their concerns as a package, including the question of the formulation of Negative Security Assurances. ASEAN hopes the remaining NWS, namely US, UK, France and Russia, will express sincerity to their commitment on nuclear disarmament by supporting SEANWFZ, the ASEAN’s contribution towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, through signing its Protocol for guaranteeing Non-Nuclear Weapon States in legally binding form against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in this Zone.

4. Assessment
The signing and entering into force of the Bangkok Treaty signifies another important contribution of the countries of Southeast Asia to the strengthening of the security in the region and to the maintenance of world peace and stability by eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons from the region. It also represents a concrete contribution to the goal of global nuclear non-proliferation as represented by the NPT.

The Bangkok Treaty represents a step forward in the development of nuclear weapon-free zones in that it incorporates innovative elements to take into account of increasing peaceful use of nuclear energy, as well as the emphasis to control nuclear wastes and responses to nuclear accidents. By according an important role for international agencies such as the IAEA to assist Treaty Parties in the implementation of the Treaty, the Treaty is also cooperative and outward-looking in nature.

Important steps have been taken to ensure the effective implementation of the Treaty, including the establishment of supervisory frameworks. However, consultations are still under way with the NWS to obtain their support through signing the Protocol to the Treaty. At the same time, the Treaty Parties would welcome support from all states for the Bangkok Treaty.

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