By Nic Maclellan
At the height of the nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Union, a treaty to create a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, or SPNFZ, was opened for signature on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1985, at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Rarotonga.
Twenty-eight years after it was signed on that day by Australia, New Zealand and island nations, the United States still hasn’t ratified its protocols, in spite of a request from President Barack Obama to the US Senate more than two years ago.
This week, as Forum leaders gather in the Marshall Islands – host to sixty-seven US nuclear tests at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls – the US government eager to keep nuclear issues off the agenda, as it has been since the Treaty was first mooted. Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, and US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, highlight longstanding opposition in Canberra and Washington to a comprehensive nuclear-free zone that might hamper US nuclear deployments in the Pacific.
The Forum meeting, and the US Senate’s continued stalling, coincide with on-going concerns that Australia’s decision to sell uranium to India threatens to breach Australian treaty obligations.
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