The Rarotonga Treaty:A regional approach to non-proliferationin the South Pacific
The South Pacific
zoneforesees an IAEA safeguards role
by P. Papadimitropoulos
The first regional approach to non-proliferation wasachieved well before any other efforts were madetowards the establishment of a worldwide non-proliferation regime. This was by the adoption of theAntarctic Treaty, established in June 1961, whichdemilitarized that vast, but unpopulated area. ThisTreaty covers a region where little is at stake and agree-ment was easily reached thereon. It prohibits all militaryactivities, including the explosion of any nuclearweapons.However, the major example of a regional approachto non-proliferation is the Tlatelolco Treaty of 1967 inLatin America. It prohibits the testing, use, manufac-ture, production or acquisition, and the receipt, storage,installation, deployment, and any form of possession ofany nuclear weapons. If three additional countriesshould agree to adhere to the Treaty, Latin America willbecome one of the most important regions of the worldin which all military uses of nuclear energy are pro-hibited by treaty. In relation to the Tlatelolco Treaty, allnuclear-weapon States have undertaken to respect thestatus of the zone and to refrain from the use or threatof use of nuclear weapons against the States of the zone(so-called negative security assurances).The Tlatelolco Treaty has encouraged other proposalsat one time or another for the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in many important areas, includingAfrica, the Balkans, Central Europe, the Mediterranean,the Middle East, the Nordic countries, South Asia, andthe South Pacific.In 1975, a comprehensive study on the question ofnuclear-weapon-free zones was carried out by an
group of governmental experts and transmitted to the30th session of the United Nations General Assembly.Later attempts to update the earlier study have not yetbeen finalized.
Mr Papadimitropoulos is a Section Head in the IAEA's Division ofExternal Relations.
Verification requirements have been taken intoaccount in drafting treaties and on-site inspection hasbeen considered as a major means to promote theirobjectives and to observe their implementation.In recent years the United Nations General Assemblyhas considered agenda items concerning four particularzones — the full implementation of the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the establishment of suchzones in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.The broad objective of a regional approach to non-proliferation is to promote detente in a particular regionand to extend to that region confidence-buildingmeasures. These measures include mainly the non-deployment of nuclear weapons and the assumption bythe nuclear-weapon States of a commitment not to usenuclear weapons against any country in the region.These commitments stand in parallel with the sovereignrights of the countries in the region to develop and usenuclear power and technology for peaceful purposes.Such a regional non-proliferation approach often hasspecial significance to a region with political tensions. It
however, more easily achieved in regions wherethere are strong political and economic ties.
The Rarotonga Treaty
None of the aforementioned zones considered by theUnited Nations General Assembly has gone beyond theadoption of the relevant resolutions. The South Pacificzone, however, has now reached the stage of reality. Ina communique, issued on 3 July 1975, the Heads ofGovernments of the independent and self-governingStates, members (at that time) of the South PacificForum (Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, NewZealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and WesternSamoa) emphasized the importance of keeping the SouthPacific region free from the risk of nuclear contamina-tion and involvement in a nuclear conflict and com-mended the idea of establishing a nuclear-weapon-freezone in the South Pacific as a means of achieving thataim.