PRESS STATEMENT - Friday 6th May 2011 - The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade warmly welcomes United States President Obama's decision to seek Senate consent to ratify the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty protocols.

The South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, more commonly known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, was opened for signature on 6 August 1985 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands and entered into force on 11 December 1986. The Treaty prohibits the possession, use, or testing of any nuclear explosive device by any State party and the dumping of any radioactive waste in the zone.

"We are very pleased by this development," said Mr Slade. "The Treaty of Rarotonga represents an unified approach by Forum Members in fulfilling their commitments under Article VII of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Treaty also represents a very significant achievement and contribution of the Pacific Islands Forum towards ongoing efforts to strengthen global security and the international non-proliferation regime.

"If approved by Senate, the US will join other the nuclear weapons States that have ratified the Treaty protocols, as well as the Treaty Parties, in further strengthening the South Pacific's status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Forum Member countries are deeply committed to world peace and security, and have renounced for themselves the manufacture, acquisition and possession of nuclear explosive devices.

"As one of the few regions in the world to have experienced nuclear weapons testing, I am pleased to say that we here at the Secretariat welcome and fully support President Obama's vision of a world without nuclear weapons," said the Secretary General.

The operation of the South Pacific nuclear-free-zone is enhanced by three Protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga that were opened for signature in 1986. Through these Protocols, nuclear weapons States have undertaken to apply the Treaty of Rarotonga to their territories in the Pacific region (Protocol 1); to refrain from the use or threat of nuclear explosive devices against any party (Protocol II); and not to test any nuclear explosive devices within the Zone (Protocol III).