AUSTRALIA: U.S has warned Australia against ratifying a historic treaty barring nuclear weapons, claiming that doing so could jeopardise defence cooperation between the US and its allies.
New Zealand, meanwhile, stated that it was “pleased to observe a positive shift in Australia’s stance in a United Nations vote and would, of course, welcome any new ratifications as an important step to achieving a nuclear weapons-free world.”
Australia’s voting position on the treaty barring nuclear weapons was modified to “abstain” by the Albanese administration after five years of adamant opposition from the Coalition government.
The relatively new agreement outlaws developing, testing, possessing, deploying, or threatening to use nuclear weapons—as well as aiding other countries in doing so. But thus far, it has not been pursued by any of the nuclear-armed nations or the majority of their allies.
The treaty, according to the US embassy in Canberra, “would not allow for US extended deterrence relationships, which are still necessary for international peace and security.”
That is an allusion to Australia’s reliance on American nuclear forces to thwart any nuclear strike on Australia, the so-called “nuclear umbrella,” despite the fact that Australia has no atomic weapons of its own.
A US embassy official told the media, “While the United States understands and shares the desire to advance nuclear disarmament goals, we do not support the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.”
“The United States does not believe that progress toward nuclear disarmament can be decoupled from the prevailing security threats in today’s world,” he further added.
The remarks show the resistance Australia will encounter from its major security ally if it moves closer to ratifying and signing the pact, even though that still seems far off.
New Zealand praised Australia’s “constructive developments” in its approach to the treaty, including its decision to reject an NZ-backed resolution on the subject at the UN General Assembly first committee last month.
Australian representatives met with New Zealand’s Phil Twyford, the country’s minister for disarmament and arms control.
According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand is still urging all nations that aren’t currently parties to the treaty to do so “at the earliest opportunity,” while acknowledging that Australia should “determine its position.”
Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, has advocated against nuclear weapons and called them “the most destructive, inhumane, and indiscriminate weapons ever created.”
At Labor’s 2018 National Conference, Albanese moved the motion supporting the TPNW, stating that while the work would not be straightforward or easy, it would be “just.” The pact has 91 signatories as of right now, 68 of which have officially ratified it, and it came into force last year.
In its national program for 2021, Labor pledged to ratify the treaty “after taking into consideration” a number of criteria, including the necessity for a strong verification and enforcement framework and efforts to win widespread support.
These circumstances imply that there may still be significant obstacles preventing real treaty membership. But rather than endorsing deterrence, Albanese’s remarks over the weekend characterised the mere presence of nuclear weapons as a security danger.
The Russian president’s threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, according to the prime minister, “has reminded the world that the existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to global security and the norms we had come to take for granted.”
That framing was noteworthy, according to Gem Romuld, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ director in Australia and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
”Prime Minister Albanese clearly understands that nuclear weapons undermine global security and that pursuing disarmament is of paramount importance, in contrast to the previous government,” Romuld stated.
“It’s no surprise the US doesn’t want Australia to join the ban treaty but it will have to respect our right to take a humanitarian stance against these weapons,” he added.
Romuld expressed concern that basing US B-52 aircraft in Australia “might heighten regional tensions or entail nuclear weapons, which Australia has promised not to station under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.”
Siswo Pramono, the ambassador of Indonesia, stated that Australia’s favourable decision on the pact would “encourage others to feel that we are on the right path” in our pursuit of a nuclear-weapons-free world.