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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Nuclear Free Zone

page 5

Nuclear Free Zone

the night sky in New Zealand.

Britain developed its so-called nuclear deterrant with nuclear tests on Christmas Island, putting nearby Cook Islanders in danger, and on the offshore islands and mainland of Australia, where one third of the State of South Australia is still prohibited territory because of lingering radioactivity.

France on losing her North African colonies, immediately shifted her nuclear tests to a much smaller colony in the South Pacific.

And the Soviet Union uses the Northern Pacific for testing its long missiles. In fact, there are signs now that the Soviets have now even moved their testing into the South Pacific. The N.Z. notice to Mariners 024/75 warned that missile tests were expected in the ficinity of the Cook Islands in March of 1975.

A Return to U.S. Atmospheric Tests

Now that the French atmospheric testing has stopped, there could be a build-up of pressure for a resumption of U.S. atmospheric testing in the Pacific. The U.S. Defence Nuclear Agency (DNA) maintains an installation on Johnston Atoll for the "National Nuclear Test Readiness Programme". According to the DNA 1975 appropriation hearings "the goal here is to assure a prompt capability to resume nuclear testing in the atmosphere if the limited lest ban treaty is abrogated by other parties, and/or if a national decision to return to testing is necessary".

The installation costs $12 million a year, and can be ready to operate in six months. There is nothing in the wording of the above statement to preclude the US abrogating the treaty on its own initiative.

The Crucial Element - Missile Testing

But, overall, the testing and development of nuclear warheads is only a minor factor in the arms race. Much more important are the increases in missile effectiveness. In fact, is has been calculated that 80 percent of the momentum of the strategic arms race is due to increase in accuracy, range, payload and survivability of the missiles, aircraft etc Which actually deliver the nuclear warheads.

Therefore, an important factor in the proposals for a Nuclear Free Zone is a provision to impede the development of delivery systems. A provision which bans the testing of nuclear weapon delivery systems in the Pacific would he aimed primarily at the U.S. Pacific Missile Range (PMR), which stretches across the Pacific from California to Kwajelein Atoll.

The Modern Colonialist

This Pacific Missile Range has had devastating effects on the culture and physical environement of Micronesian Peoples. The Kwajalein people had to be relocated to Ebeye Island where they still live in slum-like conditions. In fact the takeover of Micronesia recently proceeded a step further when the Mariannas people were persuaded to become a colony of the U.S.A. This is Americas first territorial acquisition since 1917. Needless to say, included in the Mariannas is Tinian Island, a prospective B1 base.

So, as the US retreats from more sensitive areas such Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, it is imposing itself as a colonial overlord on Pacific populations which it presumes are too small and backward to resist, [unclear: and] which can be easily bought off anyway.

The [unclear: ruggle] to establish a Nuclear Free Zone is one [unclear: important] way of resisting such moves by the U.S.A. or by any of the other nuclear powers in our region.

U.S. Warheads in the Pacific

The U.S.A. has between 8,000 and 12,000 warheads stored and deployed in the Pacific Basin. By comparison, the NATO forces in Europe have about 10,000 warheads, so we can see that the potential for a nuclear holocaust in the Pacific is as vast as it is in Europe.

The Pacific total includes 528 Strategic warheads on Polaris and Poseidon submarines in the Pacific, 3,156 warheads stored in Hawaii (figure inadvertantly released by US Navy in 1972), and 1,500 tactical warheads aboard the Pacific fleet. There are 122 ships in the Pacific fleet capable of carrying and firing nuclear weapons, and this includes of course the USS Truxtun and Longbeach.

The U S. Navy also has 108 nuclear capable Orion anti-submarine aricraft in the Pacific, and 576 Carrier borne nuclear capable aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force of course has a substantial preserve in the Pacific, including nuclear capable aircraft and warheads for them. And the U.S. Strategic Air Command also has about 75 B52 long range heavy nuclear bombers operating out of Guan.

Of course, one of the most important and lethal elements of both the U.S. and the Soviet military build-ups is the development of ballistic missile submarines. To complement its Polaris and Poseidon submarines, the US is planning to complete a new submarine system in the early 1980s. This is the Trident submarine system.

The New Threat - The Trident

The Trident sub will carry 24 missiles, each with a range of up to 6000 miles, and each with up to 24 independently targetable warheads. One Trident sub will thus be able to destroy 408 targets. The U.S. Navy is initially building ten Tridents, and they will be based at Puget Sound between Vancouver and Seattle. The entire fleet will operate in the Pacific. The 6000 mile range of the missiles means that the subs will be able to operate almost anywhere in the Pacific and still be in range of thier Soviet Targets.

The official reason for putting Trident in the Pacific is to "confront an enemy with a need for a large two-ocean anti-submarine warfare capability counter force". In other words, this means a major new escalation of the arms race. And so Soviet anti-submarine forces will range all the way down to New Zealand.

The present visits by nuclear warships are obviously a first step towards softening public resistance in N.Z. before the day the Trident submarine visits one of our ports. Or before the day that the US seeks to establish back-up facilities, storage facilities, command and communication bases for nuclear weapon delivery systems and so on.

The Soviet Union in the Pacific

The Soviet Union has a large fleet in the Pacific. At present this consists of 120 submarines (about 40 of these nuclear powered), 80 destroyers, 10 cruisers and other vessels with a combined displacement of 1,200,000 tons. This fleet is mainly active around Japan, and in supplying detachments for the Indian Ocean. But it has sent ships to all corners of the Pacific and has the capability to deploy over a wider region. And certainly, the Soviet navy methodically follows in the wake of its merchant and fishing fleets as the Soviets themselves admit.

Its Still the People who Suffer Most

This then is a brief look at the background to the proposals for a Nuclear Free Zone in the Pacific. During all these developments in testing and weapons deployment, it has been, and still is the Pacific people who suffer. They are pushed around from island to island, they are subjected to radioactive fallout and they now face being caught up in the terror of a nuclear war between the two superpowers. Clearly, one of their only protections is the establishment of a zone which removes this rivalry from the Pacific.

What would the Zone Involve

The proposed zone would need to contain the following provisions:

1. Test Ban.

A ban on the testing of any form of nuclear weapon within the zone. This of course applies especially to the French at the moment. A test ban requires verification. In the Pacific, adequate detection and identification of atmospheric tests could be provided by augmentation of the sensors already maintained by Australia and New Zealand to monitor French tests. Seismic equipment already present in Central Australia could probably adequately detect underground tests.

So called "peaceful" explosions should also be banned.

2. Weapons Ban.

A ban on the presence or transit of nuclear weapons in or through the zone. This would be relatively easy to enforce for land installations, but for ships, it is the standard practice with US and British ships to neither admit or deny the presence of nuclear weapons. And the presence of nuclear missile submarines within the zone would be very hard to prove. But one effective step would be to ban all facilities and activities that aid submarine operations, such as Omega navigation transmitters and physical oceanographic research.

3. Ban on Nuclear Sub-Systems

Banning the actual physical presence of nuclear weapons is of limited effectiveness unless one also bans bases and facilities which in any way help the operations of nuclear weapons or delivery systems. This would include a ban on spy satellite ground stations, low frequency communication bases for use in support of submarines, satellite tracing stations that provide data to anti-satellite missiles etc. In short, this means the closing down of those bases involved in global strategic warfare and which would involve increased risk of nuclear attack on the host country.

4. Inspection.

Enforcing the above bans needs some inspection rights. Unilateral inspection, similar to that provided for by the Antarctic Treaty would provide a powerful safeguard against the presence of nuclear weapons aboard ships etc. As a minimum provision too, all nations in the zone would need to apply the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all nuclear materials and reactors in their control.

The South Pacific Forum could play a role by verifying that nuclear weapons and any prohibited activities associated with nuclear weapons are not brought into the zone. The Forum could be given powers to inspect military installations and perhaps the military aircraft and warships of other signatory stales visiting member countries.

5. Restriction on Nuclear Powers and Nuclear Alliances.

A Pacific Zone would require a provision like that of Additional Protocol II in the Treaty of Tlatelolco, requiring the nuclear powers to agree never to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states or peoples within the zone. Australia and N.Z. will need to abandon the so-called "nuclear umbrella protection provided by alliances such as ANZUS. As the Peoples Treaty drawn up at Suva in 1975 pointed out, states within the zone can hardly expect other powers to renounce use of nuclear weapons unless they themselves renounce nuclear "protection".

An Approach to Setting Up the Zone

Following is one possible line of approach which has been discussed with regard to the establishment of a Nuclear Free Zone.

The zone would include as members all independent States and self governing territories in the South and central Pacific. Actual negotiations to set up the zone could be conducted through the South Pacific Forum, while the South Pacific Conference could involve the three colonial and nuclear powers in the region - Britain. USA and France.

It would also probably be necessary to call one or more special conferences to include the Soviet Union. China, India, Japan, Indonesia and the other Asean countries, Vietnam, Chile, Peru and Mexico. To be fully effective, the zone would need to be acceded to by the USA, Britain and France in particular, and undertakings from the Soviet Union would be essential to increase the sense of security of potential members.

In the Future - A Peace Zone

In time it would be desirable to extend the zone geographically, and in the comprehensiveness of its bans. The agreement establishing the zone would need to include a clause requiring signatories to consult together regularly to discuss extensions. A timetable could be establishbed for the inclusion of Micronesia, (if it is not included initially). Indonesia, and the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa). The timetable could also provide for progressive addition of restrictions on other types of foreign military power such as French garrison forces in New Caledonia, and other types of weaponrey such as chemical and biological.

Such additional restrictions would tend the zone towards what is commonly turned a Nuclear Free Peace Zone.

A Nuclear Free Peace Zone involves ridding the area of all foreign military bases, storage and communication facilties, maintenance bases and so on, The establishment of such a Peace Zone would seem to be a highly desirable long term objective for the region. But the more immediate objective, and the one which would begin to lay the ground for such a peace zone, is the establishment of a Nuclear Free Zone.

Conclusion :

Obviously, the need to struggle for the establishment of the zone is urgent. The rivalry between the two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union is increasing in the Pacific region. Recent Soviet moves among the Pacific Island States, and the visits to New Zealand by U.S. Nuclear Warships are only two aspects of a much wider development.

New Zealands security and future well-being lies in the adoption of a truly independent foreign policy, and in uniting with all other peoples in the Pacific for the establishment of a Nuclear Free Zone. Only thus will we remove the threat of being directly involved in a nuclear war between the superpowers.