Wed, 24 Jul 1996

ASEAN urged not to rush tabling resolution on SEANWFZ

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia's permanent representative at the United Nations, Nugroho Wisnumurti, said yesterday that ASEAN must not be rash in tabling a resolution on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty at the UN General Assembly.

He explained that such a resolution should be introduced at a time when it can be adopted unanimously. The objective of such a resolution, he said, is to show that it is supported by the whole world.

"We still haven't decided on the timing, but that's our long- term target," Nugroho said.

"We shouldn't want to be rash in tabling a resolution and force a vote in a situation where the nuclear countries would not support it," he said.

Spearheaded by ASEAN, all 10 leaders of Southeast Asia signed the SEANWFZ Treaty in December, proclaiming their commitment not to use, produce or stockpile nuclear weapons.

They have since called on the nuclear weapons powers to accede to the treaty by signing the protocol. However countries such as the United States continue to reject the treaty, objecting to several key elements concerning the scope of the nuclear free zone.

During the two-day ASEAN Ministerial Meeting which ended here on Sunday, ministers issued a Joint Communique which, apart from calling on nuclear weapons powers to sign the Treaty also suggested the possibility of tabling a resolution on SEANWFZ at the UN.

Nugroho explained that some years ago ASEAN tabled a resolution on its Treaty on Amity and Cooperation (TAC) which was adopted in consensus by the UN General Assembly.

"To decide upon when (the resolution would be tabled) needs its own assessment among ASEAN states on the political feasibility of tabling such a resolution," he said.

Once again he stressed that it is important for ASEAN to make sure that if a resolution is introduced it must be adopted unanimously.

Nugroho is currently in Jakarta for today's Post Ministerial Conferences between ASEAN and its dialog partners.

Separately, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas said yesterday that in order for the nuclear weapons powers to accede to it some aspects of the treaty's protocol would have to be reviewed.

"When the heads of governments of the 10 Southeast Asian countries signed the treaty, we noted there were questions, comments and even misgivings from the nuclear powers because of some articles in the treaty," he said.

Noting those comments, he said, the ASEAN member countries tried to explain to the nuclear powers some of the aspects which were believed to be "simply based on misunderstandings".

Alatas said that ASEAN foreign ministers, in their recent ministerial meeting, agreed to give priority to the review process.

"Hopefully in the not too distant future we can have a slightly revised protocol text which we will then present to the nuclear powers for their consideration and, hopefully, they will be able to associate themselves with it," he said.

The ministers who participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum also expressed their concern on nuclear testing in the region.

The ministers welcomed the end of nuclear testing in the South Pacific and confirmed their understanding that the Asia-Pacific region would soon be free of nuclear testing.

They agreed to strive toward a successful conclusion of current negotiations on the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, which involves nuclear disarmament and the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, by the year's end.

The ministers expressed hope that ongoing negotiations, through the Conference on Disarmament which is to reconvene on July 29, would lead to a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. (mds/pwn)