SUNDAY, April 21, 2024

Indonesia advocates for nuclear-free Southeast Asia

Indonesia advocates for nuclear-free Southeast Asia

Beginning its month-long presidency at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the Indonesian delegation has called on the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to guarantee the nuclear-free status of Southeast Asia. 

They have also advocated for a more effective global mechanism for discussions on disarmament.

During a high-level CD conference in Geneva earlier this week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi emphasised the urgent need for a more proactive approach to disarmament, given the swift advancements in military technology and the increasingly fragmented geopolitical landscape.

“Indonesia urges all nuclear-weapon states to fulfil their commitments, including those arranged within the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Retno told a press briefing in Geneva.

“There needs to be a focus on the things that unite us, not those that divide us. All countries must push for procedural and substantive progress on disarmament.”

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1979, the CD is the sole multilateral forum on disarmament, consisting of 65 countries considered to have significant military bearings in the world. 

This includes UNSC – the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Russia and France – all of which are internationally recognised nuclear-weapon states.

In recent years, the issue of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation has become particularly essential for ASEAN, with its territories turning into geopolitical battlegrounds for the competition between Washington and Beijing.

The rivalry has seen increased military presence and minilateral groupings in the Indo-Pacific. 

In response, Indonesia has on various occasions expressed its anxiety, especially following the formation of the Australia-UK-US pact (AUKUS) to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra.

ASEAN, which has claimed neutrality amid the competition, has in recent years intensified its efforts to secure the commitments of UNSC members to keep the region free of nuclear weapons through signing the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ).

But despite assurances from these countries that they would consider ASEAN’s request, none has so far agreed to the protocol.

The Indonesian delegation at the CD will be led by the country’s ambassador to the UN, Febrian A Ruddyard, and will focus on four primary agendas, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

These priorities include encouraging progress for countries to implement their disarmament commitments, overcoming rhetorical and potential uses of nuclear weapons, reducing countries’ interests in military alliances and strengthening disarmament commitments.

“This presidency will focus on revitalising political will, building trust and reducing distrust between countries through efforts to bridge existing differences and polarisation,” the ministry said in a statement.

Included in Jakarta’s initiatives are interactive thematic discussions revolving around improving the CD’s working mechanisms as well as trust-building.

Indonesia has been stepping up its nuclear diplomacy in recent years, last year scoring a unanimous vote to represent the Southeast Asia and Pacific region at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors from 2023 to 2025.

The Jakarta Post

Asia News Network