Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok)
In 1995, the countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) through the Treaty of Bangkok. This Treaty prohibits the development, manufacture, testing, acquisition, or other possession of nuclear weapons anywhere in the region. Each state party undertakes not to dump any radioactive material or waste within the zone and each has the ability to decide for itself whether to allow visits by foreign ships and aircraft to its ports and airfields. The Treaty provides for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology; however, it requires that all states subject their nuclear activities to comprehensive IAEA safeguards. To further verify compliance, the Treaty establishes the Commission for the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and enables states to request fact-finding missions for clarifications of another state’s compliance.
The Treaty includes one protocol, which requires NPT-designated nuclear weapon states (NWS) to respect the SEANWFZ by “not [contributing] to any act which constitutes a violation of the Treaty or its Protocol.” NWS would also undertake to not use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any party to the Treaty. These “negative security assurances” legally bind its signatories from using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear NPT states that have renounced them.
The Treaty of Bangkok opened for signature on December 15, 1995 and came into force on March 27, 1997, following its seventh ratification. As of 2001, the Treaty has become universal across the ten countries of Southeast Asia.
However, none of the NWS have signed the protocol due to unmet U.S. security concerns, which the other NWS support. The United States opposes the legally binding nature of the security assurances expected of the Protocol’s parties, as well as the extension of the NWFZ to include the continental shelves and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). EEZs routinely include what the U.S. Navy considers open seas and places where nuclear-armed submarines might go. Parties to the Treaty continue to pursue consultations with the NWS regarding their accession to the Treaty’s protocols.
Graham, T., & LaVera, D. J. (2003). Treaty of Bangkok. In Cornerstones of Security: Arms Control Treaties in the Nuclear Era (pp. 24-30). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
Jones, R. W., McDonough, M. G., & Spector, L. S. (1998). Appendix E: Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones. In Tracking Nuclear Proliferation a Guide in Maps & Charts, 1998 (pp. 301-305). Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/Tracking_AppE.pdf
Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok). (2009, June 12). Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved from http://www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/inventory/pdfs/seanwfz.pdf