The treaty setting up the zone by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan is a concrete contribution to the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty entered into force in March 2009. This achievement should be highly commended as a concrete contribution by the nonnuclear weapon states (NNWS) in their implementation of Article VII of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in regional treaties.
In February 1997, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (the five Central Asian states, or C5) issued the Almaty Declaration, which expressed their united view on the need to proclaim Central Asia a nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ). This idea was introduced to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and it adopted resolution 52/38S. Thus the establishment of an NWFZ has become the agenda of the international community through a regional initiative.
The CANWFZ Treaty has the following characteristics.
An NWFZ should be established on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned, and this initiative should emanate exclusively from those states (according to UN document A/54/42, Annex 1, on the establishment of an NWFZ). CANWFZ fully met these conditions.
This is the first NWFZ treaty established in the Northern Hemisphere. All four existing NWFZs are in the Southern Hemisphere.
CANWFZ includes the territory of a former nuclear weapon state. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Kazakhstan became the fourth largest nuclear weapon state. Kazakhstan renounced nuclear weapons, became a state party to the NPT as an NNWS, and joined many disarmament related conventions and treaties.
The zone consists of landlocked states. Preexisting NWFZs include areas of the sea.
The treaty reflects recent developments in the field of disarmament, such as the basic obligations of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and accession to the Additional Protocol and the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.
The treaty refers to the relationship with other agreements. The interpretation of the 1992 Tashkent Collective Security Treaty became a contentious issue. If a wider interpretation is accepted on "all necessary assistance" rendered by signatories of the Security Treaty, it might imply that the introduction of nuclear weapons to Central Asia would conflict with the principles of CANWFZ seeking a zone free from nuclear weapons. As a result of three years of intensive consultations, the C5 worked out language of compromise. Whereas China and Russia support the language, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France strongly opposed this solution. There appears to be almost no possibility of the deployment of nuclear weapons of France and the United Kingdom in this region. U.S. opposition contradicts its view that "the establishment of a NWFZ 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 UN Charter."
The direct involvement of the United Nations in the drafting process was helpful in preparing acceptable articles. UNGA resolution 52/38S requested the United Nations to provide assistance to the C5 for their drafting of the CANWFZ Treaty. In response to the C5's request, the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) created a UN Expert Group in order to promote the drafting process through the organization of a number of meetings in the region, including those held in Sapporo, Japan.
Why was this exercise successful? Some answers are that, victimized by the past nuclear activities conducted by the Soviet Union, the C5 were firmly united to take actions toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons. From the issuance of the Almaty Declaration to the adoption of numerous UNGA resolutions, the C5 had consolidated consensus on the early agreement of the treaty text. Through this exercise, the C5 increased confidence among themselves. While working hard to materialize CANWFZ, this long last exercise helped to develop a sense of community in Central Asia. The C5 genuinely wished to contribute to disarmament and nonproliferation and to combat nuclear terrorism.
At the crucial stages of negotiations, leadership was demonstrated at the highest level of the C5. We appreciate the important role played by the president of Uzbekistan for his organization of the 1997 Tashkent meeting, where the work on CANWFZ started, and his continued support of CANWFZ as one of his diplomatic priorities. Furthermore, we should praise the crucial decision made by the president of Kazakhstan in hosting a signing ceremony in Semipalatinsk despite the strong pressure from within and outside the United Nations.
The involvement of the United Nations was essential for the successful conclusion of the CANWFZ Treaty. In addition to providing technical and substantive advice to the C5, the UNRCPD acted as an honest broker to resolve differences and overcome impasses caused by C5 rivalries.
Nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation have become an agenda of the international community since U.S. president Barrack Obama's statement in Prague in April 2009 calling for a world free from nuclear weapons. It is expected that the CANWFZ Treaty, having entered into force, should be given due recognition at the May 2010 NPT Review Conference and that the lessons of CANWFZ can be utilized for the creation of NWFZs in other regions.
Tsutomu Ishiguri, a professor at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, is former director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific. As its director he organized numerous international conferences, including nineteen UN conferences in Japan on disarmament, and played an important role in assisting Central Asian states in drafting the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, which entered into force on March 21, 2009.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2010 issue of Dharma World.
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