On Monday, Foreign Ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial in Manila issued a Joint Statement on the Commission for the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). The Treaty was signed in 1995 by Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Joint Statement pledges the State Parties to work to ensure compliance, work toward accession of the nuclear weapon states, cooperate with international bodies and others, and develop a specific workplan.
This is a great step forward, and a great opportunity to offer some suggestions for steps the Commission might take to broaden and strengthen the contribution SEANWFZ makes to international peace and security:
- An official acknowledgment of the changing political climate suggesting the possibility of progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons signaled by a January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn and other recent developments.
- An effort to seek agreement between the Commission and the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL); this might begin with regular meetings every five years, possibly timed six months ahead of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences to give the Zone implementing bodies an opportunity to prepare a report to each Review Conference on their joint work.
- Explicit collaboration with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as a like-minded international organization; this might include support of entry-into-force of the CTBT.
- Promoting outreach from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the African Union in support of entry-into-force of the Treaty of Pelindaba (which would establish the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone). This might be as simple as a letter or as robust as a coordinate demarche campaign by all ASEAN States to all African Union states.
A statement of support for extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and further verified reductions in the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.
An inquiry to the British Foreign Ministry regarding how SEANWFZ State Parties might contribute to the British effort to advance the cause of a world free of nuclear weapons announced by outgoing Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett.