The Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN), in cooperation with the Foreign Service Institute, held its 2017 Southeast Asia Regional Meeting on 24-25 November 2017 at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City. The APLN is a broad-based advocacy group that seeks to energize public opinion and encourage high-level policymakers to address the real threats posed by nuclear weapons through a sustained focus on measures to contain, reduce and ultimately eliminate these weapons. The APLN has more than ninety members from fifteen countries across Asia and the Pacific consisting of former political, official and military leaders in senior executive positions as well as opinion leaders and shapers from other sectors of society.
In this meeting, 12 APLN members were joined by Philippine observers from the academe and government, all attending in their private capacity. Off-the-record discussions focused on the implementation of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, developments in the Korean Peninsula, the 2020 NPT Review process and challenges, as well as, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.
Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ)
The Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), commonly known as the Treaty of Bangkok, embodies the collective will and concrete action by the ASEAN member-states to keep the region free of nuclear weapons, and therefore contribute towards general and complete disarmament. It was noted during the meeting that the ASEAN Member States are actively engaging the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) on the latter’s signing and ratification of the Protocol of the Treaty. SEANWFZ can never be fully implemented if those States that have the weapons are still not on board, 20 years after the Treaty entered into force. Consultations were held to address all outstanding issues in accordance with the principles and objectives.
Furthermore, ASEAN Member States are working on the full implementation of the Treaty’s 5-year Plan of Action, and the formalization of relations between the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Nuclear Energy (ASEANTOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Developments in the Korean Peninsula
The possible role of ASEAN in providing a venue for engagements between DPRK and South Korea was also discussed. The ASEAN collectively, or a specific Southeast Asian country can have a facilitating role in reviving dialogue between the parties involved.
NPT Review Process and the Ban Treaty
It was noted during the discussion that the standard challenges on the NPT Review process relates to the 3 decisions and 1 resolution of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. Decision 1 refers to the challenge of strengthening the review process with the view that the purpose of the Preamble and the provisions of the NPT are being realized. There is also a need for progress in substantive issues of concern, as indicated in Decision 2 (on the universality of the treaty, nonproliferation and disarmament). Decision 3 is about the indefinite extension of the Treaty in conjunction with the resolution on the Middle East. It was noted the 2020 NPT Review Conference appears to be set as a stage for a very engaged discussion between the NWS and their allies, or those under the umbrella on one hand, and those in favor of the Ban Treaty.
The ban treaty features a normative barrier to the attempted normalization and possibility of use of nuclear weapons. It was also argued during the meeting that it can be considered a dangerous form of romantic fantasy to perceive that one may address proliferation without disarmament.
A full report of the meeting will shortly appear at the APLN website at http://a-pln.org/meetings/meetings/.