Treaty of Bangkok
Visual illustration of the Southeast Asia NWFZ
Image source: Wikipedia.org
The Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, also known as the SEANWFZ Treaty or Bangkok Treaty, was signed on 15 December 1995 by ten Southeast Asian States. The Treaty, which entered into force on 27 March 1997, was registered with the United Nations on 27 June 1997.
The Treaty is a key legal instrument in supporting the purposes of ASEAN, which, as articulated in the ASEAN Charter, include preserving Southeast Asia as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free from all other weapons of mass destruction. It also reaffirms the importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in contributing towards international peace and security.
The Treaty established the third Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone in the world, following the conclusion of the Treaty of Tlatelolco establishing the Nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ) for the Latin American and Caribbean region in 1967 and the Treaty of Rarotonga, establishing the NWFZ for the South Pacific region in 1985.
The Treaty obliges States Parties not to develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons, station or transport nuclear weapons, or test or use nuclear weapons. States Parties also undertake not to discharge radioactive material or wastes at sea, into the atmosphere or on land within the Zone, and not to allow other states to conduct these acts. The Treaty further commits each State Party to use nuclear material and facilities exclusively for peaceful purposes and, prior to embarking on a peaceful nuclear energy programme, to subject that programme to a rigorous nuclear safety assessment conforming to guidelines and standards recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the protection of health and minimisation of danger to life and property in accordance with Paragraph 6 of Article III of the Statute of the IAEA.
In summary, the Treaty promotes the universalisation of international agreements related to disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and commits States Parties to fully supporting and implementing the main pillars of the NPT and their mutually reinforcing nature, i.e. nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The SEANWFZ Treaty includes two elements that go beyond other existing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) agreements: 1) the zone of application also includes the continental shelves and the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the contracting parties; and 2) the negative security assurance implies a commitment by the NWS not to use nuclear weapons against any contracting State or protocol Party within the zone of application.
Full text of the Bangkok Treaty is available at the UN Disarmament Treaties Database:http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/bangkok
The States Parties to the Treaty are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
Internal Coordination Mechanisms
The SEANWFZ Commission, comprised of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, oversees the implementation of the Treaty and ensures compliance with its provisions. The Commission is assisted by the SEANWFZ Executive Committee and its Working Group.
Current Activities and Priorities
In order to fully realise the objectives of the Treaty, the Plan of Action (POA) to Strengthen the Implementation of the SEANWFZ (2018-2022) was adopted to provide a framework for States Parties to fulfil their obligations under the Treaty. The adoption of the POA reflected the strong commitment by States Parties to pursue the objectives of the Treaty through concrete actions. It also reaffirmed the importance of promoting the profile and visibility of the Treaty at relevant multilateral fora and frameworks on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Regional efforts to promote nuclear safety, security and safeguards are being pursued through the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM), while the ASEAN Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN) is the main platform for promoting ASEAN cooperation in the area of peaceful application of nuclear energy for power generation. States Parties and external partners have also utilised other ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). By way of example, the ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ISM on NPD) provides a platform for dialogue and cooperation on non-proliferation, peaceful use of nuclear technology, and disarmament among its 27 Participants.
To strengthen the capacity of States Parties in implementing the Treaty and its POA, States Parties have promoted close cooperation with the IAEA and other partners, including other NWFZs and ASEAN Dialogue Partners, through various capacity building activities, information sharing, and technical cooperation projects. The Practical Arrangements between ASEAN and the IAEA, signed on 16 September 2019 in Vienna, Austria serve as an important document for closer cooperation between ASEAN and the IAEA in the areas of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards as well as nuclear science and technologies and their applications.
Recognising the role of NWFZs in strengthening the non-proliferation regime and global stability, ASEAN continues to engage with other NWFZs by participating in relevant conferences and seminars. Most recently, ASEAN participated in “Fostering Cooperation and Enhancing Consultation Mechanisms among the Existing Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones” seminar, held in August 2019 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Efforts have also been made to promote the profile of the Treaty in multilateral fora and international organisations. A key activity is the regular biennial tabling and adoption of the ASEAN resolution, entitled ‘Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (Bangkok Treaty)’ in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The most recent substantive resolution 70/60 on the Treaty was adopted without a vote at the seventieth session on 7 December 2015. The latest General Assembly decision 74/510 pertaining to the Treaty was adopted without a vote during the seventy-fourth session on 12 December 2019. ASEAN also submitted a Memorandum on Activities Relating to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone as a background document for the Tenth NPT Review Conference, through which it pledged its commitment to non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
ASEAN aims to continue actively contributing to global efforts in disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy, with a view to strengthening international standards and norms in support of a nuclear weapon-free world.