Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones

A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) is a specified region in which countries commit themselves not to manufacture, acquire, test, or possess nuclear weapons. Read more...

There are three functioning NWFZ in the world currently - two others are in negotiation. The three established NWFZ apply to countries:
  • Latin America (the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco)
  • the South Pacific (the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga) [to which Australia is a Party], and
  • Southeast Asia (the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok).

Africani countries also agreed to prohibit nuclear weapons on their continent, but the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba has not entered into force.

Five countries of the former Soviet Union finished negotiations in September 2002 to establish a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone, although the treaty has not yet been opened for signature.

The five nuclear-weapons states recognized in the NPTi (USA, Russia, UK, China and France) all have the option of supporting the NWFZ by signing and ratifying Protocols within each NWFZ Treaty. The protocols:

  • urge the nuclear-weapon states to respect the status of the zones, and
  • call upon them not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against treaty states-parties. 

The regional treaties prohibit member states from possessing nuclear weapons, but generally allow the transit of nuclear armed vessels through the zones. The Treaty of Tlatelolco, however, prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in the territorial waters of member states. The Rarotonga treaty prohibits the dumping of nuclear waste in the zone. The Treaty of Bangkok prohibits any threat or use of nuclear weapons within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of member states. The Treaty of Pelindaba prohibits attacks on nuclear facilities within the zone.

Collectively, the regional zones plus the Antarctic Treaty create an area encompassing the Southern Hemisphere and some of the adjacent areas in the Northern Hemisphere, where the possession and stationing of nuclear weapons is prohibited. 

Essential reading:

MAPW related policy:
Visits of nuclear powered and/or capable ships and aircraft