GENEVA (Kyodo) — The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations may reach agreement with Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States on their accession to a protocol of a regional nuclear weapon free zone treaty as early as October, a representative of one of the five nuclear powers said Thursday.
The representative, speaking to Kyodo News on condition of anonymity, made the remarks after three days of consultations between the two sides in Geneva on how to overcome obstacles to accession of the five nuclear powers to the protocol of the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, which has been in force since 1997.
The source said the two sides, meeting after a 10-year stalemate in negotiations, decided to meet again in early October on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly First Committee session to continue negotiations.
The treaty commits the 10 ASEAN members not to develop, acquire or test nuclear weapons, nor to station them on their territories.
Its protocol is designed to get the five nuclear powers to commit to respect the status of the zone and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against signatory states or anywhere in the zone.
China has said it is ready to sign the protocol of the treaty in its current form, but Britain, France, Russia and the United States have said they cannot.
Their reluctance is mainly due to inclusion in the treaty’s scope of application of continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, which have never been clearly delimited in the South China Sea, and the effect that could have on freedom of navigation of warships and nuclear submarines passing through the area as well as on port calls by ships that may carry nuclear weapons.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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