MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
3 February 1998
"CUT-OFF" TREATY ON FISSILE MATERIAL NEEDED FOR NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION AND DISARMAMENT
In my address to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva today, I stressed the need to begin work in earnest on a "cut-off" treaty to end the production of fissile material for explosive purposes.
This is a vital step for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, which has been endorsed by the Canberra Commission. The idea of such a treaty goes back to the earliest efforts at nuclear arms control. States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have agreed that it should be the next step after the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although the Conference has had a mandate to negotiate a cut-off treaty since 1995, it has yet to act on it.
A treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons would give us all greater security by putting a further nail in the coffin of the nuclear arms race and the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons. Just as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is creating a barrier to the qualitative development of nuclear weapons, a "cut-off" treaty will create a barrier to their quantitative development.
A "cut-off" treaty would contribute to the creation of a security environment which, in the words of the Canberra Commission, would be "conducive to the elimination of nuclear weapons". It would help the nuclear-weapon States to take further steps towards dismantling their nuclear arsenals by creating greater transparency and confidence about the capabilities and intentions of other countries with unsafeguarded fissile material production facilities. It would also help to redress the admittedly discriminatory nature of the non-proliferation regime by - for the first time - subjecting nuclear facilities in the nuclear weapons' States to obligatory international verification.
Engagement by the nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States
in negotiations of a "cut-off" treaty in the Conference on Disarmament
would provide compelling evidence of their commitment to fulfil the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty Article VI obligation to pursue negotiations related
to the cessation of the nuclear arms race.
This is my second visit to the Conference on Disarmament as Foreign Minister, which is testimony to the importance Australia accords this institution and its contribution to building a more secure world.
The Conference is the international community's leading arms control negotiating forum. It has a proven track record in negotiating effective, verifiable global disarmament and non-proliferation treaties which have helped to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, including in Australia's area of primary strategic concern.
The continued strength, vitality and productiveness of the conference is vital to Australia's national security interest.
For more information:
Ministerial - Innes Willox (02) 6277 7500
Departmental - Tony Melville (02) 6261 1555
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