SEANWFZ Enters Into Force; U.S. Considers Signing Protocol

Howard Diamond

THE SOUTHEAST Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty entered into force on March 28, 1997, when Cambodia, became the seventh nation to deposit its instrument of ratification in Bangkok, Thailand. Singapore followed with its ratification on the same day, leaving Indonesia and the Philippines as the only two signatories that have not yet ratified.

Also known as the Bangkok Treaty, the SEANWFZ Treaty was signed on December 15, 1995, in Bangkok at the fifth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. In addition to the seven ASEAN members (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) the treaty was signed by three ASEAN observernations (Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos). The treaty requires each stateparty not to "develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons; station or transport nuclear weapons by any means; or test or use nuclear weapons."

The treaty also outlaws the dumping of radioactive waste or materials anywhere in the zone, and requires all statesparties to maintain fullscope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards over their nuclear facilities. Each state is to decide individually whether to allow foreign ships or aircraft (which could be nuclearpowered or nucleararmed) to visit or transit through their airspace or territorial waters.

The arsenals of the five nuclear-weapon states (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) are the subject of a treaty protocol which is open for signature by the five countries. The attached protocol would commit the five to respect the terms of the treaty and pledge "not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any State Party to the Treaty." None of the five powers has signed the protocol.

In discussions with ASEAN on the protocol, the United States and the other nuclear powers have focused on four issues of concern: first, the question of the treaty's consistency with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its principles of freedom of navigation; second, the precise nature of the legally binding negative security assurances made by the protocol parties; third, the permissibility of port calls by ships which may carry nuclear weapons; and fourth, the procedural rights of the protocol parties before the treaty's various executive bodies.

With the SEANWFZ Treaty, Southeast Asia becomes the fifth geographic area to be declared a zone free of nuclear weapons. In addition to SEANWFZ, the Antarctic Treaty, the Treaty of Tlatelolco (covering Latin America and the Caribbean), the Treaty of Rarotonga (the South Pacific) and the Treaty of Pelindaba (Africa) have transformed most of the Southern Hemisphere into a nuclear-weapon-free area.