Australia, Japan Submit Disarmament Proposals For NPT Review Conference

Australia and Japan have put together a proposal of 16 nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation measures for consideration at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in May, the Australian Foreign Ministry announced today (see GSN, March 8).

The proposal was submitted to the United Nations. The two nations will now concentrate on gaining backing for their proposal ahead of and during the monthlong meeting in New York, according to a release from Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

"The joint package reaffirms Japan and Australia's shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and a successful outcome at the NPT review conference," the release states.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has 189 member nations, including the five recognized nuclear powers: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nuclear-armed nations India, Israel and Pakistan have not joined the treaty and North Korea withdrew from the pact. Review conferences for the 40-year-old agreement are held every five years.

"The practical measures in the package represent our shared review conference priorities, including a strong reaffirmation of the NPT's core principles and the need for balanced outcomes across all three of the treaty's 'pillars': nuclear disarmament; nuclear nonproliferation; and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," according to Canberra and Tokyo.

The package urges all nuclear states to pledge to freeze or reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals and to lessen their importance in national security postures. This would involve a pledge against using such weapons against states without nuclear deterrents of their own. The recommendations also urge more openness by nuclear states regarding their nuclear capabilities, including the size of their arsenals and number of delivery vehicles.

Japan and Australia, which both rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, also called for all nations to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and for the quick initiation and completion of negotiations for a fissile material cutoff treaty (Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith release, March 24).

"We will have discussions with other partner countries and do our utmost so that this package will be reflected in the final document of the NPT review conference," Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said yesterday in a report by Kyodo News.

Japan and Australia are seeking more comprehensive and concrete assurances than provided in 1995 by the five nuclear powers that they will not use their nuclear arms on NPT non-nuclear states than the pledges. Only China offered a pledge that included no exceptions, Kyodo reported.

Okada and Smith in a shared statement last month said that an initial step toward worldwide denuclearization would be for nuclear nations to declare that the only purpose of their strategic arsenals was to deter nuclear attack. However, the two nations' plan did not reference the "sole purpose" stance.

"As this is a paper for the NPT review conference, we thought we have to think about more realistic ideas," Okada said (Kyodo News/Breitbart.com, March 23).

The International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, which was established by the Australian and Japanese governments and led by former foreign ministers from the two nations, had called for acceptance of the "sole purpose" rule, the Age newspaper noted (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2009).

The decision not to include the language in the document issued this week was seemingly intended to avoid causing troubles with the United States, which is finalizing its latest nuclear strategy review, according to the Age (see GSN, March 18).

However, it also could make it harder for Canberra to promote nuclear disarmament. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already decided against joining other leaders at the nuclear security summit scheduled for April in Washington.

'We always say we get a chance to speak at the table -- but this time we blew it,'' said Richard Tanter, an international relations professor at RMIT University in Melbourne (Daniel Flitton, The Age, March 25).

March 24, 2010
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Australia and Japan have put together a proposal of 16 nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation measures for consideration at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in May, the Australian Foreign Ministry announced today (see GSN, March 8).