Palau announces CTBT Ratification at Manila Workshop

Palau announces CTBT Ratification at Manila Workshop

The Pacific Island State of Palau announced at a regional CTBTO workshop in Manila, Philippines, that it had just completed the national ratification process for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Once the instruments of ratification are deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General, Palau will become the 18th State in the South-East Asia, Pacific and the Far East (SEAPFE) region to have ratified the Treaty.

The three-day workshop, hosted by the Government of the Philippines from 27-29 June, was being held especially for the SEAPFE region. Representatives from 15 States participated: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu and Viet Nam.

Focusing on the Treaty status of States participating in the workshop, the Philippines, host country and ASEAN chair through June 2007, New Zealand and Viet Nam have all signed and ratified the Treaty with Palau's ratification awaiting confirmation. Eight others, i.e. China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Thailand, have signed but not yet ratified. The Treaty is still awaiting signature by the three small island States of Niue, Tonga and Tuvalu (in addition to Timor Leste, which did not attend the workshop).

Region-wide, 27 of the 32 States have signed the Treaty and 17 have formally ratified it. Of critical importance are the three Annex 2 States - China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Indonesia - that belong to this region and who must ratify before the Treaty can enter into force. The DPRK has yet to sign the Treaty.

In his welcoming remarks, HE Alberto G. Romulo, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, reminded participants that "the nuclear age in fact dawned in our region … We must therefore collectively abhor the possibility of another Hiroshima and Nagasaki in our midst." The Philippines, as a ratifying State, has strongly supported the CTBT throughout the region because "we have faith in the global non-proliferation regime, of which this Treaty is a cornerstone," he said.

Citing former US President Bill Clinton's comment that the CTBT has been the "longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control", Jerzy Zaleski, of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) noted that, "by concluding the Treaty in 1996, States demonstrated their determination to put an end to over 50 years of nuclear testing, a period that witnessed over 2,000 test explosions." Mr Zaleski stressed the importance of universality, urging all States that had not yet done so to sign and/or ratify the Treaty without delay and emphasizing that such workshops were an effective tool to this end.

The Honorable Evan P. Garcia, Representative of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to the UN and International Organizations, said in his welcome address that it was important to sustain the momentum. "Our journey has been long and arduous, but it does not stop until the CTBT enters into force. The longer we delay it, the longer we all court the unthinkable threats posed by the proliferation, testing and possible use of nuclear weapons."

In the words of Mr Ziping Gu, CTBTO Director of Legal and External Relations, this workshop aimed to "enhance awareness of CTBT-related work and assist States in obtaining benefits from the work of the Commission". It focused on three key issues: the political significance of the Treaty; verification technologies and capacity building; and civil and scientific applications, including tsunami warning systems, for States Signatories.

Political significance: The importance of the SEAPFE region in relation to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is illustrated by the fact that two of the five existing Nuclear Weapon Free Zones have been established there. As long ago as 1985, the Pacific Island Forum's member countries introduced the concept of a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone in their Rarotonga Treaty. Then in 1995, with the signing of the Bangkok Treaty, the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) was created, including all ten ASEAN Member Countries. Mr Garcia, in his address, encouraged Nuclear Weapons States to sign the Protocol of this Treaty, which symbolizes ASEAN's collective determination to achieve complete nuclear disarmament.

Verification technologies and capacity building: All participating countries expressed keen interest in accessing International Monitoring System data and International Data Centre products. They also requested further capacity building in this region.

Civil and Scientific applications: Many of the discussions at the workshop focused on the potential benefits of CTBT verification technologies. Since this region of the world is known to be vulnerable to natural disasters - ranging from tsunamis and typhoons to earthquakes and volcanoes that dot the Asia-Pacific "Ring of Fire" - catastrophe mitigation and management have long been among its top priorities. Ambassador Ana Teresa Dengo, Chairperson of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, called for closer CTBTO cooperation in disaster prevention and verification techniques with UNESCO and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), especially in global efforts to develop a tsunami-warning system in the Indian Ocean.

One of the practical outcomes of international cooperation thus far has been CTBTO's provision of continuous, real-time data from 31 IMS stations, to two international tsunami warning centres in Japan and the USA (Hawaii) and two national centres in Australia and Malaysia. As part of the half-day session on tsunami warning systems, workshop participants undertook a site visit to the Philippines' Auxiliary Seismic Station AS80 in Tagaytay, one of the 31 IMS data transmission stations mentioned above.

Dong-Myung Kim, Chief of the International Cooperation Section at the CTBTO Preparatory Commission in Vienna that had organized the workshop, expressed his appreciation for the excellent support and services provided by the Philippine organizers and the positive feedback from participants. Mr. Kim also thanked Australia, Japan, South Korea and UNESCO for their support of the workshop. Since 1998, the Commission has helped organize a total of twenty such regional workshops around the world, six of them in this region. "Given the high attendance and the very substantive discussions, this was one of the most successful workshops for the CTBTO", said Mr. Kim.