June 02, 2007

NUCLEAR CHALLENGES : Dr Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defence, Australia


Saturday 2 June 2007


Dr Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defence, Australia

Thank you very much to Dr John Chipman, His Excellency, Fumio Kyuma, the Minister for Defence for Japan, and His Excellency Kim Jang-Soo, the Minister for Defence for South Korea, Excellencies and ladies and gentlemen.
Australia has supported the Shangri-La Dialogue from its outset because we believe that the solutions that we face in security will not ever be addressed without dialogue and understanding which comes particularly from this event. On behalf of Australia, I would like to particularly welcome those additional countries that have chosen to participate this year.
We consider that we are at a crossroads internationally in relation to nuclear issues. We worry very deeply about the nuclear enrichment programme in Iran. We worried greatly when we saw the nuclear detonation in North Korea in October last year. However, it is not just the threat and the possibility of regional proliferation, it is also nuclear terrorism, the nuclear relationship between the great powers of the world, and it is also the necessary security implications of the increasing search for and use of nuclear energy as environmental deadlines are bearing down on all of us throughout the world.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ recent publication, ‘the Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, AQ Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks’, reminds us of just some of the very real threats that are faced by all of us. Khan’s network spread over a number of countries: the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, spanning three continents, eluding national and international export controls that were designed to prevent illicit trade in nuclear materials.
Our fear is a very real one: that others may take up where Khan left off, exploiting vulnerabilities identified by Khan in the global non-proliferation regime.
The spread of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, their precursors and means of delivery is a long-standing security concern for Australia as I am sure it is for all of us here. More states acquiring nuclear weapons obviously increases the chance that those weapons will be used.
Australia welcomes the United States’ and Russian efforts under the Moscow Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapon holdings. The emergence of global insurgency in the form of terrorism has added a new and compelling dimension of chemical, nuclear or biological materials and weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors.
Australia supports global non-proliferation and disarmament objectives through practical and cooperative measures. For example, we chair the Australia Group. We have also hosted several proliferation security initiative events. We also recently hosted the Asia-Pacific seminar on combating nuclear terrorism.
Effective nuclear non-proliferation regime is essential for Australian uranium export industry, for example. We hold just under 40% of the world’s uranium deposits. Also, the continued access to the important nuclear materials in technology is essential. It is so important, amongst other things, for understanding, investigating and treating human diseases.
The adherence to international nuclear non-proliferation controls is an essential foundation for trade and cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
From our point of view, there are three key nuclear security challenges that face the broader Asia-Pacific region. The first is: preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons among states. As we know, and have just heard from my Japanese and Republic of Korean counterparts, North Korea detonated a nuclear device last year and is currently subject to United Nation Security Council Resolution 1718, and other measures.
We also saw a ballistic missile programme with the attempted Taepodong II launcher in July. Both of these things threaten the peace and security not only of our region but indeed of our world.
Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme is a major concern. Iran must comply with United Nation Security Council Resolutions 1696, 1737 and 1747; and fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. With full transparency and compliance, of course the legitimate pursuit of nuclear energy would not be a concern to us. However, that is far from the case at the moment.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is the foundation of nuclear non-proliferation enhanced by the IAEA safeguards and regional treaties, such as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and the Treaty on South East Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. Also important are the reinforcing mechanisms, for example the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The second challenge we face in our region, as we see it, is the security of nuclear technology and materials in all states. For example, there are seven nuclear research reactors in our immediate region. All are under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is securing energy supplies and dealing with environmental deadlines, countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are considering the introduction of nuclear power. Amongst all this, there must be a political will to support strong governance procedures that relate to the security of necessary nuclear technology and materials. There must be a collective approach. The global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism and the amended convention of physical protection of nuclear material are just two examples which Australia would commend to all nations.
The third challenge is the increased risk of non-state actors accessing WMD materials, equipment and technology. Al Qaeda has expressed an aspiration to acquire and use these materials. In that regard, the Proliferation Security Initiative is essential.
After President Bush announced the Proliferation Security Initiatives after the Krakow G8 meeting in 2003, Australia was one of the foundation signatories to it. There are now close to 80 countries that participate or observe the Proliferation Security Initiatives. Australia has participated in 29 of them.
It is absolutely essential for all of us to appreciate that it is not about any of us challenging or wanting to change the domestic conventions and laws of countries which choose to be involved in this. It is also not about creating a new bureaucracy or a travelling dinner club or anything that is other than trying to deal with what happens with precursors of WMD once they leave – should they leave – any of our shores.
The IA’s study of the AQ Khan network is compelling reading. All of us should consider what would have happened were the BBC China not to have been intercepted. In that regard, Australia strongly recommends participation in the Proliferation Security Initiatives to all nations.
In a world facing the challenge of climate change, many nations – including our own – are looking to either introduce or expand nuclear-generated power. We support the peaceful, legitimate use of nuclear energy within non-proliferation obligations. In that regard, Australia supports enhanced management of the nuclear fuels cycle, as proposed, for example, by the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership launched by the United States in February 2006.
A suite of international interlocking treaties, arrangements, undertakings and norms strives to hold the spread of nuclear weapons and technology, and advance the cause of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and other measures. For example, the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1540 commits states to applying effective controls to prohibit terrorists from developing WMD or acquiring their precursors.
We obviously strongly support the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1718 in relation to North Korea. In fact, we have amended domestic legislation to ensure that we can fully comply and support the enforcement of that resolution.
Similarly, we support the three key United Nation Security Council Resolutions in relation to Iran.
We also support multinational approaches and the Proliferation Security Initiative, with of course its statement of interdiction principles and a comprehensive programme of exercises, workshops and outreach.
The Global Initiative to combat nuclear terrorism: accounting, control and physical protection of nuclear and radioactive materials, and the suppression of illicit trafficking. We also support cooperation in developing the technology that denies safe havens and sees the prosecution of terrorists. We support the Financial Action Task Force to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
In other words, none of us should ever forget that trying to contain proliferation is not just about interdiction. It is about a comprehensive suite of domestic and international measures which need to be undertaken across military, policing, intelligence, communications, diplomatic and other channels to see that we contain what is a very real threat to all of us and our respective peoples.
Nations also need effective export controls, customs, law enforcement and intelligence. We have to stay ahead of the proliferators.
We all also need to reach out much more to academia and to industry in relation to identifying those areas where we may be vulnerable, and getting a much better understanding of how the proliferators think and subsequently how they may act.
All of us need to accept that proliferation is a political problem. It requires states to act. Much more remains to be done and no one of us in this day and age can afford to take the view that in some way it has nothing to do with us.
What each of us can achieve as individual nations alone is absolutely nothing compared to what we can achieve if we work together.

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