The White House announced yesterday that the President has submitted the Protocols to the African and the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaties to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent to ratification.
Fifteen years since these Treaties were signed by the United States, the submission marks an important step toward providing these countries with assurance that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against them, thereby reinforcing their decision to strengthen their nuclear nonproliferation commitments and encouraging other countries to do the same.
As the ArmsControlNow noted on February 18, and as the White House press release emphasizes, Nuclear Weapons Free Zones form an essential part of the nonproliferation regime by assuring more than half of the entire globe remains free of the presence of nuclear weapons and testing. (To read more about NWFZ click here and here.) Just as the Latin American NWFZ has strengthened the nuclear nonproliferation norm in that region, ratifying the protocols for the African and South Pacific zones will do the same for the countries in those two regions.
Moreover, the Administration has pledged "to engage" the members of two additional NWFZs in Southeast Asia and Central Asia and work toward signing the relevant protocols to their respective treaties "as soon as possible."
The Senate should swiftly consider and ratify the two NWFZ protocols. Doing so is entirely consistent with U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons against countries in good-standing with their nuclear nonproliferation commitments. By ratifying these protocols, the Senate can also send an important signal that states stand to benefit from meeting their obligations not to acquire nuclear weapons, while countries that pursue them will only further diminish their security.