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Diplomacy in Action

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and Protocols


Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
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Introduction

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty ("the Treaty") was opened for signature at Rarotonga on August 6, 1985, and entered into force December 11, 1986. The Treaty established the second nuclear-weapon-free zone in a populated region of the world (the first such zone was established by the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and its two Additional Protocols). The Treaty provides that it is open for signature by States that are members of the South Pacific Forum (hereinafter referred to as the Pacific Islands Forum, as it was renamed in 2000), an international organization that seeks to promote regional cooperation among countries of the Pacific region. The Treaty prohibits the manufacture, acquisition, possession, or control of nuclear explosive devices by its Parties, as well as the dumping by Parties of radioactive wastes at sea within the defined zone. It also requires Parties to the Treaty to prevent the testing or stationing of nuclear explosive devices within their territories (as that term is defined in Article I of the Treaty). Because the United States is not a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, it is not eligible to become a Party to the Treaty itself.

The three Protocols that accompany the Treaty were opened for signature on August 8, 1986. Protocol 1 is open for signature by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. Each Party to Protocol 1 undertakes to apply certain prohibitions under the Treaty to the territories for which it is internationally responsible situated within the zone. Ratification of Protocol 1 by the United States would prohibit the manufacture, stationing, or testing of nuclear explosive devices in American Samoa or on Jarvis Island (a small, uninhabited island located about 1,500 miles south of Hawaii). The United States, France, and the United Kingdom signed Protocol I on March 25, 1996. Protocol 1 is in force for France and the United Kingdom.

Protocols 2 and 3 are open for signature by the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom-- the nuclear-weapon States as defined by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT). Each Party to Protocol 2 undertakes not to use or threaten to use any nuclear explosive device against Parties to the Treaty or against any territory within the zone for which a State Party to Protocol 1 is internationally responsible. In addition, Protocol 2 Parties are prohibited from contributing to any act of a Treaty Party which would constitute a violation of the Treaty or to any act of another Protocol Party that would constitute a violation of a Protocol. The United States signed Protocol 2 on March 25, 1996, and it is in force for China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Each Party to Protocol 3 undertakes not to test any nuclear explosive device anywhere within the zone. The United States signed Protocol 3 on March 25, 1996, and it is in force for China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

The Treaty meets all seven of the criteria that the United States has established for supporting any proposed nuclear weapon free zone. The criteria are as follows: 

  • the initiative for the creation of the zone should come from the States in the region concerned;
  • all States whose participation is deemed important should participate;
  • the zone arrangement should provide for adequate verification of compliance with its provisions;
  • the establishment of the zone should not disturb existing security arrangements to the detriment of regional and international security or otherwise abridge the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense guaranteed in the Charter of the United Nations;
  • the zone arrangement should effectively prohibit its Parties from developing or otherwise possessing any nuclear device for whatever purpose;
  • the establishment of the zone should not affect the existing rights of its Parties under international law to grant or deny other States transit privileges within their respective land territory, internal waters, and airspace to nuclear powered and nuclear capable ships and aircraft of non-party nations, including port calls and overflights; and
  • the zone arrangement should not seek to impose restrictions on the exercise of rights recognized under international law, particularly the high seas freedoms of navigation and overf1ight, the right of innocent passage of territorial and archipelagic seas, the right of transit passage of international straits, and the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage of archipelagic waters.

The United States signed the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty on March 25, 1996. The document was transmitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification on May 2, 2011.

Article-by-Article Analysis

Protocol 1 

Article l applies Articles 3, 5, and 6 of the Treaty, insofar as they relate to the prohibition on manufacture, stationing, and testing of any nuclear explosive device and the application of IAEA safeguards within the territories located in the zone for which a Protocol Party is internationally responsible.

As defined in Article I of the Treaty, "territory" means "internal waters, territorial sea and archipelagic waters, the seabed and subsoil beneath, the land territory and the airspace above them." The obligations undertaken by Protocol 1 Parties are thus restricted in application to a geographic area defined in Annex 1 to the Treaty. The territories for which the United States is internationally responsible within the zone as described in Annex 1 to the Treaty are American Samoa and Jarvis Island (a small, uninhabited island located about 1,500 miles south of Hawaii). The United States has never manufactured, stationed, or tested any nuclear explosive device on American Samoa or Jarvis Island.

If the underlying Treaty is amended by the zone Parties after entry into force of Protocol 1, the United States will not be bound to the altered obligations without its written consent. Specifically, Article 2 states that each Protocol 1 Party may accept any alteration to its obligations under this Protocol effected through the Treaty's amendment process by providing written notification to the Treaty's Depositary.

Article 3 lists the states that may sign. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom are eligible to become Parties to Protocol 1, as there are territories within the zone for which they are internationally responsible. Article 4 states that Protocol 1 shall be subject to ratification. The three eligible countries signed Protocol 1 on March 25, 1996. France deposited its instrument of ratification to Protocol 1 on September 20, 1996, and the United Kingdom followed suit on September 19, 1997. The United States signed the Protocol on March 25, 1996, but has not ratified.

Article 5 states that Protocol l is "of a permanent nature" and will remain in force indefinitely unless a Protocol I Party exercises its right of withdrawal, having decided that "extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Protocol, have jeopardized its supreme interests." Parties are required to provide three months' notice in advance of withdrawal.

Article 6 declares that Protocol 1 shall enter into force for each Party upon the date of deposit of that Party's instrument of ratification.

Protocol 2

Article 1 states that each Party to Protocol 2 undertakes not to use or threaten to use any nuclear explosive device against any Party to the Treaty or against any territory within the zone for which a Protocol 1 Party is internationally responsible.

Article 2 obligates Protocol 2 Parties not to contribute to any act by a Party to the Treaty or Protocols which constitutes a violation of that Party's respective obligations. This provision does not require the United States to comply with all provisions of the Treaty; rather, it requires the United States not to contribute to a Treaty Party committing its own violation of the Treaty.

Article 3 is identical to Article 2 of Protocol 1, detailed above, with the additional proviso that said alteration could come from extension of the zone to other States pursuant to Article 12(3) of the Treaty (see the discussion regarding this Treaty article below).

Article 4 states that Protocol 2 is open for signature by the United States, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. Article 5 states that this Protocol is subject to ratification. China signed Protocol 2 on February 10, 1987, and deposited its instrument of ratification on October 21, 1988. The Soviet Union signed Protocol 2 on December 15, 1986, and deposited its instrument of ratification on April 21, 1988. Russia has succeeded to the obligations of the Soviet Union under Protocol 2. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom signed Protocol 2 on March 25, 1996. France deposited its instrument of ratification of Protocol 2 on September 20, 1996, and the United Kingdom did likewise on September 19, 1997.

Article 6 is identical to Article 5 of Protocol 1, detailed above, regarding the right of withdrawal.

Article 7 is identical to Article 6 of Protocol 1, detailed above, regarding entry into force.

Protocol 3

Article 1 obligates each Party to Protocol 3 not to test any nuclear device anywhere within the zone. The zone is defined in Article l(a) of the Treaty as those areas described and illustrated in Annex 1 of the Treaty. While Article 2 of the Treaty specifies generally that the Treaty and its Protocols shall apply to "territory" with the zone, there is a qualification "[e]xcept where otherwise specified." In this case, the commitment in Article 1 of Protocol 3 not to test "anywhere" in the zone constitutes just such an exception. Therefore, this prohibition not to test is not limited to the territory of Treaty Parties, but applies throughout the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, including maritime areas beyond the sovereignty of any State encompassed by the demarcations of Annex 1. In any event, the United States has never tested any nuclear device in the area demarcated as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone.

Article 2 is identical to Article 3 of Protocol 2 regarding acceptance of alterations in the obligations under the Treaty.

Article 3 states that Protocol 3 is open for signature by the United States, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. Article 4 states that Protocol 3 is subject to ratification. China signed Protocol 3 on February 10, 1987, and deposited its instrument of ratification on October 21, 1988. The Soviet Union signed Protocol 3 on December 15, 1986, and deposited its instrument of ratification on April 21, 1988. Russia has succeeded to the obligations of the Soviet Union under Protocol 3. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom signed Protocol 3 on March 25, 1996. France deposited its instrument of ratification to Protocol 3 on September 20, 1996, and the United Kingdom deposited its instrument of ratification on September 19, 1997.

Articles 5 and 6 are identical to the articles in the previous two Protocols regarding duration, withdrawal, and entry into force. 

 

 



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