ASEAN reopens talks with powers on SEA nuclear weapons free zone treaty protocol

ASEAN will continue negotiations with the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and the United States on their accession to a protocol of the 1997 South East Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty as early as October, a representative of one of the five nuclear powers told Kyodo news agency on condition of anonymity.

The treaty commits the 10 ASEAN members not to develop, acquire or test nuclear weapons, nor to station them on their territories.

Discussions between the parties have been stalled for 10-years regarding the protocol designed to get the five nuclear powers to commit to respecting 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 the UK, France, Russia and the United States have said they cannot.

The latters' 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.

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