ASEAN Wants to Re-Open Talks On Nuclear-Free Zone

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will re-open talks with the five major nuclear powers aimed at ensuring the region is free of nuclear weapons.

Surin Pitsuwan, the ASEAN secretary-general, says the grouping hopes to persuade Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States to agree to a 1995 treaty that bars ASEAN states from owning or using nuclear weapons. ASEAN wants the nuclear powers to never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons in the region.

Surin made the comment Monday in an interview with VOA ahead of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum this week in Bali. The ASEAN states will meet with top diplomats from the grouping's neighbors and key partners, including China, Japan and the United States.

The United States, Britain, France and Russia have declined to sign the agreement because it includes the continental shelves of the region and the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of the ASEAN states. That would limit the ability for nuclear-armed ships to travel through the region.

China has indicated it is willing to sign the treaty. However, Beijing claims all of the South China Sea, overlapping with the claims of four ASEAN states.

The United States last year said it was willing to enter discussions on the treaty.