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Nuclear Weapons Free Zones

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs) at a minimum prohibit the stationing, testing, use, and development of nuclear weapons inside a particular geographical region, whether that is a single state, a region, or area governed solely by international agreements. They have been identified in many fora, including the Non-Proliferatio n Treaty and the UN General Assembly, as being positive steps towards nuclear disarmament.

Single State Zones

Single State Zones are created by national legislation, declaration or constitutional mandate. Some countries, such as Mongolia and Austria, have declared their nuclear

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weapon free status in the absence of any regional treaty while others, such as New Zealand and the Philippines, have used domestic means to go beyond the obligations of the regional treaty to which they are a party.

Mongolia and Austria have both declared their nuclear weapon free status through enacting domestic legislation, Austria in 1999 and Mongolia in 2000. Both acts prohibit the manufacturing, storage, transport, and testing of nuclear weapons within their territory. Mongolia's legislation also prohibits the transportation, dumping and storage of weapons grade nuclear waste within its territory, and obligates the National Security Council of Mongolia to co-ordinate the international institutionalising of its NWF status. Single nation zones lack formal agreements from NWS respecting their NWF status, however Mongolia is seeking to achieve such international recognition as well as some negative security assurances from NWS.

New Zealand's Nuclear Free Zone domestic legislation, prohibits any foreign ship that is nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons from entering its internal waters or any foreign aircraft landing in its territory. This goes beyond New Zealand's obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, which permits port visits of nuclear ships. The Philippines, a member of the South East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, has declared its territory free of nuclear weapons through a change in its constitution.

Regional Zones

There are five existing regional NWFZs established by treaty. The provisions of each zone vary with the language of each respective treaty, however each treaty prohibits the manufacture, production, possession, testing, acquisition, and receipt of nuclear weapons. Each of the regional NWFZ treaties includes a protocol to be signed by NWS laying out negative security assurances and respect for the NWFZ. Some treaties have additional protocols for signature by states with regards to their territories within the zone.

The first regional zone, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) was opened for signature in 1967 and brought into force in 1968. Cuba, which has signed the treaty, remains the only country left to ratify. The treaty's two protocols have been fully ratified.

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga) opened for signature 1985, entered into force 1986. The treaty has been signed and ratifed by all but three countries in the region. The United States, though it has signed the two additional protocols, remains the only country that has not ratified the protocols. The Rarotonga Treaty differs from Tlatelolco in that it includes an unequivocal ban on nuclear explosions and explosive devises for peaceful purposes, and prohibits its members from dumping nuclear waste into the zone's waters.

The South East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free- Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok) opened for signature in 1995 and came into force in 1996. No NWS has signed the additional protocol, which calls for respect for the Treaty and negative security assurances. This may be due in part to the fact that the zone includes the continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones of the member states and that the protocol prohibits threat or use of nuclear weapons within the zone.

The African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) opened for signature in 1996, and has still not come into force. The Treaty's additional protocols I & II prohibit the parties from aiding violation of the treaty, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against the zone, or testing nuclear weapons within the zone. These protocols have been signed by all NWS, and ratified by France and China. Spain has not signed Protocol III with regards to its territories within the zone. The treaty uniquely bans any attack on a nuclear facility within the zone.

The Sea Bed Treaty (1971), the Outer Space Treaty (1967) and the Antarctic Treaty (1959), which specifically prohibits nuclear explosions, of any kind, and the disposal of radioactive waste materials in Antarctica, are additional multilateral treaties aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons into specific areas. See also section.

In January 1992 the Republic of Korea (South) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North) signed a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under this declaration the two countries agree not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons, not to possess nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities, and to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes. The entry into force of this declaration has been delayed indefinitely since the Republic of Korea threatened to withdraw from the NPT.

Issues Confronting Existing Zones:

Existing NWFZs are currently facing many challenges. For single state zones, pressing issues involve gaining negative security assurances from NWS as well as international respect and recognition. Regional zones are left with the challenge of obtaining full ratification of their treaties and protocols, along with continued verification of compliance. The question of transit of nuclear weapons remains uncertain for most NWFZs. To what extent will NWFZs be able to prevent the presence of nuclear weapons in the seas before coming into conflict with the Law of the Sea?

Proposed NWFZs

The international community has focused on the possibility of creating new regional NWFZs particularly in the Central Asia, Middle East, South Asia, North East Asia, and Central Europe. There is also room for existing NWFZs to work more closely together. There have, for example been moves to affirm a Nuclear Weapon Free Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas, which could involve a declaration or agreement between existing regional zones. Support for such a move has come from United Nations General Assembly resolutions and from informal discussions between the zones.

1959 Antarctic Treaty [402 U.N.T.S. 71, entered into force June 23, 1961]
The Antarctic Treaty was signed at Washington on December 1st, 1959 and entered into force on June 23, 1961. The Treaty was signed by the governments of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland, and the United States of America.

The Antarctic Treaty reserves the use of Antarctica exclusively for peaceful purposes, prohibits the establishment of "any measures of military nature", prohibits any nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste, and allows Antarctica to be used for international cooperation in scientific investigation for the progress and betterment of all mankind.

1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America [Treaty of Tlatelolco] [634 U.N.T.S. 326, entered into force April 22, 1968]
Proposals for the Amendment of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (1992)
The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America was signed at Mexico City on February 14, 1967 and entered into force on April 22, 1968. The Treaty prohibits the testing, use, manufacturing, production and acquisition as well as the receipt, storage installation and deployment of nuclear weapons in Latin America. Contracting Parties retain the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in particular for their economic and social development. Contracting Parties retain the right to carry out explosions of nuclear devices for peaceful purposes, "including explosions which involve devices similar to those used in nuclear weapons", but Parties must notify the IAEA as far in advance as possible. US ratification of the treaty was deposited at Mexico City on November 23, 1981.

1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies [Outer Space Treaty] [610 U.N.T.S. 205, entered into force, Oct. 10, 1967]
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies entered into force on October 10, 1967. The Treaty reserves the use of outer space for peaceful purposes only and for scientific exploration that benefits all peoples "irrespective of the degree of their economic or scientific development." The Treaty prohibits the establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers. Signatories of the treaty also agreed not to "place in orbit around the Earth any object carrying nuclear weapons or any other kind of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies or station such weapons in outer space in any other matter."

1971 Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof [Seabed Treaty] [955 U.N.T.S. 115, entered into force May 18, 1972]
The Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof entered into force on May 18, 1972 and restricts the sea-bed, ocean floor and the subsoil thereof "from the arms race as a step towards disarmament, the reduction of international tensions and the maintenance of world peace." The treaty prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, or structures for launching, storing testing or using such weapons on the sea-bed, the ocean floor or the subsoil thereof.

1985 South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty [Treaty of Rarotonga] [24 I.L.M. 1442, entered into force Dec. 11, 1986] Summary
South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Raratonga) entered into force on December 11, 1986 and was guided by a decision of the Fifteenth South Pacific Forum at Tuvalu "that a nuclear free zone should be established in the region at the earliest possible opportunity." The treaty renounces the use of nuclear explosive devices and prohibits the manufacturing, acquisition, possession or control of any nuclear explosive device. Each party retains sovereignty to decide which foreign ships or aircraft may enter their ports or airfields and which may pass through their territorial sea or archipelagic waters. Signatories agree to prevent the testing of any nuclear device in their respective territory. The Treaty also prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste and matter within the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone.

1995 Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone [Treaty of Bangkok]
Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (Bangkok Treaty) entered into force in 1995 and prohibits, namely, Brunei Darusslam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam from developing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or having control over any nuclear weapons. The Treaty also prohibits the stationing, testing or use of nuclear weapons in the Zone as well as it prohibits the dumping or discharge of radioactive materials or wastes into the sea and atmosphere anywhere in the Zone. Signatories retain the right to use nuclear energy "in particular for their economic development and social progress." Each party retains sovereignty to decide which foreign ships or aircraft may enter their ports or airfields and which may pass through their territorial sea or archipelagic waters. Signatories agree to prevent the testing of any nuclear device in their respective territory.

1996 African Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone Treaty [Treaty of Pelindaba] Summary

The African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) entered into force on April 11, 1996 guided by the Declaration of the Denuclearization of Africa and believing that the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone would protect African States against possible nuclear attacks on their territories. The Treaty prohibits the research on, development, manufacturing, stockpile, control and acquisition of any nuclear device as well as it prohibits the stationing of any nuclear explosives device and the dumping of radioactive material or waste anywhere in the zone. Signatories retain the right to peaceful nuclear activities that utilize nuclear science and technology to strengthen security, stability and development. The zone consists of the entire continent of Africa and the following islands:
Agalega Island, Bassas da India, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cardagos Carajos Shoals, Chagos Archipelago, Comoros, Diego Garcia, Europa, Juan de Nova, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Prince Edward & Principe Marion Islands, Reunion, Rodrigues Island, Sao Tome, Seychelles, and Tromelin Island.

1996 Cairo Declaration
n.d. The nuclear weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent area (UNGA Res. 51/45 B)
The Cairo Declaration was adopted on April 11, 1996 on the occasion of the signing of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Pelindaba). The declaration calls upon the nuclear weapons states to "actively pursue the goal of a nuclear weapon free world as embodied in Article VI of the NPT, through the urgent negotiation of agreements with effective measures of verification towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time." The declaration also emphasizes the establishment of nuclear weapons free zones, especially in regions of tension, in order to enhance global and regional peace and security.