July 29, 2007 / 5:35 AM / 12 years ago

SE Asia to adopt new plan on nuclear-free zone

MANILA (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from Southeast Asia are due to adopt a five-year work plan on Sunday to strengthen the implementation of a treaty banning nuclear weapons in the region, a Philippine diplomat said.

Since 1997, a treaty creating the South East Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) has been in force in the region, limiting the use of nuclear power by members to peaceful purposes, such as power generation.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have all signed the treaty.

“The work plan was formulated to provide tangible plans and benchmarks that will align the activities of member-states under the treaty,” said Claro Cristobal, spokesman of the Philippine foreign affairs department.

Cristobal said the SEANWFZ commission, chaired by the Philippines, will convene on Sunday to review the cooperation to keep Southeast Asia nuclear-weapons free and plan its direction for the next 10 years.

Cristobal said a five-year work plan would be adopted during the meeting to ensure members would abide by and meet their commitments under the treaty, particularly on adhering to all international safeguards agreements.

ASEAN also plans to work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other experts to develop a legal framework to meet international standards on nuclear safety, among other issues, he said.

Alberto Romulo, the Philippine foreign affairs secretary, has said nuclear non-proliferation issues would be high on this week’s agenda at a meeting between ASEAN and its 17 partners in a regional security dialogue.

“The liberation of the Korean peninsula from nuclear weapons, as well as the nuclear issues involving Iran, will be taken up in our meetings,” Romulo said on Friday, adding the discussions would also make sure these weapons “do not spread and non-state actors are denied access to materials that can be used to produce these weapons”.

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