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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 196

Senator WEST —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: what are the prospects of concluding a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, and how is Australia helping? Will China's reported intention to resume nuclear testing in the near future jeopardise the CTBT negotiations? Will Australia make representations to China on this matter?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The government believes that the prospects for concluding a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty are now very positive. All the nuclear weapon states are committed to negotiation of such a treaty and negotiations on it commenced in January at the conference on disarmament in Geneva. Negotiations are making steady progress on both the core articles of the treaty and the technical aspects—the difficult ones of verifying compliance. The Australian delegation, as with the chemical weapons exercise before it, has played a very active role in advancing these negotiations. We have tabled a complete draft treaty as a reference point for the conference in developing agreed treaty language.

  United States leadership in this matter has also been extremely important, with the US delegation in Geneva playing a very constructive role. President Clinton announced on 14 March that he had decided to extend for another year the US moratorium on its nuclear testing program until September 1995. I have written to Secretary of State Christopher welcoming that decision, and certainly it has been very important in creating the right atmosphere for these negotiations to proceed. It is also the case that France and Russia are maintaining their testing moratoriums. I am particularly pleased about that and about the extension of the US moratorium in so far as they occurred notwithstanding China's resumption of testing in October last year.

  On the subject of China, it has said that it remains committed to the negotiation of a test ban treaty by 1996. We have, nonetheless, heard reports that China has announced that it will again resume nuclear testing shortly. We hope there is no substance in those reports, but we cannot be sure of that. We have been urging China to join the other weapon states in a moratorium on its national programs. We, and many other countries, protested China's last nuclear test in October last year. We continue to urge China to refrain from further testing. I raised the issue just a few weeks ago in Beijing with Qian Qichen, the Chinese foreign minister, and will continue to do so.

  The commitment of the international community to a comprehensive test ban treaty is demonstrated by the fact that, at the last UN General Assembly last year, a resolution calling for such a treaty was, for the first time, passed not by a majority vote but by consensus. As lead sponsor of that resolution, we were delighted to secure for it a record number of co-sponsors—the highest in the UN General Assembly's history: 156 co-sponsors of that resolution.

  Early conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty will, of course, directly help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which remains our other major objective in the nuclear area. As a step toward nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states, it will certainly improve the prospects for indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty at the extension and review conference scheduled for April and May next year.