The Significance of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty
The recently-concluded ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila last July 29 to August 2, 2007 will be as forgettable as the previous ASEAN Ministerial Meetings, with the participants’ usual boring diplomatic niceties to each other. Except for one item that will really test the mettle and political will of the member states of ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This is the full implementation of the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.
This regional nuclear-weapons free zone treaty was signed more than ten years ago, and yet we still have to see it fully enforced. It is therefore significant that in the recent ASEAN Ministerial Meeting a 5-Year Plan of Action to enforce this moribund treaty was prepared by the ASEAN Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission. And it is also significant that this initiative to finally see this treaty enforced was done during the ASEAN meeting that was held in the Philippines, the only country in the world that has adopted a nuclear weapons-free policy as a state policy in its 1987 Constitution. That Philippine Constitutional provision states, “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.” (Art.II, Sec. 8). It is no small feat that this Philippine national policy has now become a regional aspiration in the form of a formal treaty by the 10 member states of ASEAN.
It is imperative for the ASEAN member states to now enforce the spirit and letter of this treaty. May we suggest the following measures to be taken by the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty Commission to see to it that this treaty is implemented:
1. Encourage the other 9 ASEAN states to adopt as their national policies in their Constitution or legislation, nuclear weapons free policies , with implementing rules and guidelines;
2. Disallow port visits or entry into territorial waters in ASEAN by any foreign naval or military vessels unless they certify to the host country that they are not carrying nuclear weapons or radio-active material to be used as components of nuclear weapons; refusal to certify or insisting on a “neither confirm nor deny policy” would be tantamount to denial of entry into territorial waters and port visits;
3. ASEAN should be informed of the movements within the region of the nuclear armed fleets of the United States, China, France, U.K. , Russia, etc. whenever they enter the South China Sea. This is also for the maritime security of the ASEAN’s marine life on which many ASEAN peoples depend on for livelihood, but which may be endangered by nuclear armed and nuclear powered vessels and submarines.
4. We finally suggest also that the ASEAN countries tap the expertise of non-state organizations and non-government organizations in monitoring and implementing the ASEAN’s nuclear weapons free zone treaty.
Only then will this treaty make its impact and significance as a model to others for nuclear disarmament, demilitarization and environmental protection.
August 20, 2007
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)