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Asia-Pacific weapons build-up frightening, needs action: Hill



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MEDIA RELEASE ^ SENATOR ROBERT HILL LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Tuesday, June 11 Canberra 52/91

ASIA-PACIFIC WEAPONS BUILD-UP FRIGHTENING. HEEDS ACTION: HILL

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, today said the potential for proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the Asia-Pacific region was frightening and needed urgent action.

He said the progress in arms control currently being witnessed in Europe had not been repeated in the Asia-Pacific region.

Senator Hill made his comments at the launching of the book "Radioactive Heaven and Earth" at the Austin Hospital in

Melbourne.

Senator Hill said that although overall world spending on arms fell by 4 per cent in 1990, defence spending in Asia-Pacific countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Pakistan had increased. As a result,

regional navies and air forces were being expanded.

"The need for greater attention to be paid to this arms build-up in the Asia-Pacific is pressing," Senator Hill said.

"It is the potential proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons into an area already showing signs of an arms race - an area which has a diversity of political systems and military capability, an area with pockets of instability - that

is the most frightening and in need of urgent action."

He said the most immediate concern within our region regarding nuclear proliferation was North Korea. He said North Korea had not concluded a safeguards agreement or accepted inspections of its nuclear facilities. Its intransigence was most disturbing and endangered regional security.

Senator Hill said the proliferation of ballistic missile technology was concerning, as growth in the number of missiles would inevitably increase instability and undermine progress in arms reductions by the superpowers.

COMMONWEA-TH PA R L IA M EN TA R Y LIBRARY M iC A H

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He said the combination of missile technology and chemical weapons provided a potent, threatening and "easy" weapon of mass destruction - one which many powers, including those in the Asia- Pacific, could acquire.

"Therefore, not only is the control of weapons delivery

technology urgent, but so is progress on a complete ban on

chemical weapons," Senator Hill said.

Senator Hill said the arms control and disarmanent process was not an easy one and would be difficult to achieve in the Asia- Pacific because of the diversity of political systems and military capabilities.

"Although differing national security concerns must be taken into account, the arms build-up within the region can only be

destabilising," Senator Hill said.

He said a regional commitment to multilateral treaties and regimes under which nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were controlled was one way of containing the potential for conflict.

But this system was limited, did not deal with the issues which gave rise to perceptions of threat, and did not deal adequately with the control of conventional weapons.

Senator Hill said there could not be an automatic assumption that the methods and processes used in Europe and globally to reduce conventional and nuclear weapons and build confidence would be useful in the Asia-Pacific context.

"The path to pursue initially in the Asia-Pacific region is to focus on what security really means - not only in a military sense, but in trade, economic and political terns as w e l l , " he said.

"Enhancing the regional security environment will take time and will only come about through greater co-operation and greater transparency of intentions in all these areas."

(ends)

Enquiries: Senator Hill on (06) 277 3170 or Hark Batistich on (03) 614 2797