FA 29 - 15 April 2000


I have today warmly welcomed the news that the Russian Parliament - or Duma - has backed ratification of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty.

This is an important development which paves the way for Russian ratification of the Treaty and deep cuts to the nuclear arsenals of both Russia and the United States.

This news is particularly welcome in the lead-up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which will be held in New York from 24 April to 18 May. I will lead Australia's delegation to the Review Conference and will address it on 25 April.

Australia now calls on the Russian Government to complete as quickly as possible the ratification processes for START H. The balanced, verifiable reductions in nuclear arsenals envisaged under START II will enhance the security of both Russia and the United States and will constitute an important step along the road to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The Strategic Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaty (START) process is a critical component of global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation endeavours. It offers the best prospects for significant and sustained reductions in Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals.

The reductions planned under START I on accountable strategic warheads are running ahead of schedule and when completed will cap each side at 6000 warheads. Under START II, which the United States has ratified, deployed strategic nuclear warheads will fall over the life of the agreement to no more than 3500 each, some two thirds of Cold War peaks.

The United States and Russia have already agreed that under START II both countries should seek a level of 2000-2500 deployed warheads which, if achieved, would represent an 80 percent reduction in such warheads since the end of the Cold War.

Media contacts:
(Ministerial) Innes Willox (02) 62 77- 7500
(Departmental) Matt Francis/Julie McDonald (02) 6261-1555

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