Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu

Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu ( File Photo)

The Opposition Group in Parliament supported the Government Bill on the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Ratification) Act No. of 2018, when the bill was introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu yesterday.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the “UN Treaty”) is the first multilateral nuclear disarmament Treaty to be concluded in more than 20 years. There were 122 nations who voted in favor of the Treaty. Vanuatu was amongst the first countries to sign the UN Treaty in 2017 during the UN General Assembly in New York, Minister Regenvanu, said in his explanatory notes in parliament.

He said this UN Treaty or the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibited nuclear weapons with the goal of leading towards their total elimination. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, according to its proponents, will constitute an “ unambiguous political commitment” to achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world. However, unlike a comprehensive nuclear weapons, it was not intended to contain all of the legal and technical measures required to reach the point of elimination. Such provisions will instead be the subject of subsequent negotiations, allowing the initial agreement to be concluded relatively quickly and, if necessary, without the involvement of nuclear -armed nations.

Minister Regenvanu expounded that the proponents of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty believe that it will help “stigmatize” nuclear weapons, and serve as a “catalyst” for elimination. Around two-thirds of the world od the world’s nations have pledged to work together “ to fill the legal gap” in the existing international regime governing nuclear weapons, and view a Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty as one option for achieving this.

He said Vanuatu is a non-nuclear weapon State and is party to numerous disarmament Treaties and Conventions. These include; The South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (The Raratonga Treaty), The Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention (BWC), The Mine Ban Treaty, The Arms Trade Treaty, The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Minister Regenvanu said, however, Vanuatu needs to address the total elimination of nuclear weapons through prohibition by ratifying this UN Treaty.

At the moment, he said, the UN Treaty has still not entered into force, once 50 countries ratify or accede to the UN Treaty then it will come into force.

During discussions on the principles of the Bill, the Leader of the Opposition Ishmael Kalsakau, supported by other Opposition and Government MPs, congratulated Minister Regenvanu, for introducing the Bill to be passed by Parliament. Opposition Leader Ishmael Kalsakau, said Vanuatu came out clear right after independence to express its opposition to the world on the nuclear weapons use.

Other MPs gave examples of Vanuatu opposing Nuclear Weapons by protests it expressed over the past years on Moruroa atoll nuclear testing by France.

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