ASEAN will resume talks with Britain, China, France, Russia and the US to resolve issues that have barred them from ratifying the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty.
The decision to re-open negotiations was made at the conclusion of a working group meeting on the Treaty, part of the ASEAN Regional Forum taking place this week in Bali. ASEAN state representatives will meet with top diplomats from the grouping’s neighbours and key partners, including China, Japan and the United States.
“For the past 10 years, we have not reached a common position among the ASEAN parties to SEANWFZ in preparing the accession of the nuclear weapon states to the SEANWFZ treaty,” said I Gusti Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesian permanent representative in ASEAN.
The Treaty, originally signed in 1995, prohibits members from developing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or controlling nuclear weapons, as well as from stationing or transporting nuclear weapons.
Report: Asean to resume talks with nuclear weapon states in Aug [PTI, 18 Jul 2011]
The US, Britain, France and Russia have declined to sign the agreement because it includes the continental shelves of the region and the 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the ASEAN states. The US in particular has objected to an ASEAN term that bans vessels carrying nuclear materials from entering the EEZ of ASEAN countries, arguing that it violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China has openly said it is ready to sign the protocol of the treaty, but ongoing conflict with four ASEAN states over the South China Sea territories have impeded diplomacy, as China feels the treaty prejudices ASEAN claims in the sea.
An ASEAN representative has said that the treaty will not be amended to accommodate these concerns, but that ASEAN countries hope to settle the issue “with a political approach.”
Report & Analysis: ASEAN wants to re-open talks on nuclear-free zone [VOA, 18 Jul 2011]
The last decade has failed to see ASEAN countries develop a common position on the accession of nuclear-weapon states to the SEANWFZ Treaty. According to Gusti Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia’s top envoy to ASEAN, the formation of a shared stance marks a significant milestone.
Report: ASEAN schedule nuke-free zone talks with nuclear powers [Kyodo News, 17 Jul 2011]
ASEAN states hope to use four main elements as a common reference when consulting with the nuclear weapon states, namely: 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.
Discussions with the nuclear-armed states will be held by August 6 in Geneva, and will be the first such exchange in slightly less than 10 years.
Report & Analysis: ASEAN wooing nuclear powers on disarmament push [Jakarta Post, 19 Jul 2011]