The nation that is hosting this week’s Pacific Islands Forum conference has stated that the area needs to “revisit” a landmark anti-nuclear pact. As evidence, they cite the recent agreement between Australia and Japan about the Aukus submarines and the release of treated effluent from Fukushima.
Concerns regarding nuclear-related issues were voiced by Mark Brown, PM of Cook Islands and Chair of the Most significant Annual Political negotiations in the Region, on the eve of the visit of Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Brown is chairing these negotiations, which are considered the most significant annual political talks in the region.
Albanese, who has just returned from a business trip to China, is scheduled to arrive in the Cook Islands on Tuesday (which will be Wednesday in Australia), according to the local time zone.
Bob Hawke, who served as Prime Minister of Australia at the time, ratified the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in 1985. This agreement is often referred to as the Treaty of Rarotonga because it was finalized on the island nation of Rarotonga.
The parties to the pact are obligated to continue preventing the stationing of nuclear weapons anywhere within the territory that is covered by the treaty as long as the agreement is in effect. In addition to this, it prohibits the testing of nuclear weapons and includes provisions to prevent the disposal of radioactive waste at sea.
Brown, who has stated in the past that the Aukus accord appeared to go against the spirit of the treaty, suggested that there was a need to ensure that the agreement from 1985 was being implemented in a manner that represented the times.
Brown told reporters, “I think for many of our small island states countries, the Rarotonga treaty is something that we stood by very strongly in 1985 at a time when the tensions, the nuclear tensions in the cold war, were very different.” “I think for many of our small island states countries, the Rarotonga treaty is something that we stood by very strongly in 1985.”
He stated that smaller island states had more recently raised concerns about the “storage of nuclear waste in the likes of the Marshall Islands, Japan’s decision to discharge treated water into the Pacific, the legacy of nuclear testing that remains around many of our Pacific island countries, and also the announcement of things like increased surveillance of nuclear-powered submarines through the Pacific”.
According to Brown, “Pacific leaders and Pacific nations have concerns around these specific issues. That is why we feel that it is appropriate that we should rediscover and revisit our Rarotonga treaty to ensure that it reflects the concerns of Pacific countries today, and not just what occurred back in 1985.”
Brown did not provide any further explanation; however, Henry Puna, secretary general of Pacific Islands Forum (Pif), has previously discussed the necessity of ensuring the treaty’s “full operation, effect, and compliance.” Brown did not comment on this point.
The Australian government has made several attempts to persuade its Pacific allies that its Aukus plan to purchase nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarines is “consistent” with its duties under the Treaty of Rarotonga. These efforts have been met with skepticism on the part of the Pacific nations.
It has also supported plans backed by the United States to create a facility in the Northern Territory for up to six American B-52 planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
While everything is going on, Japan has been making efforts to reassure the surrounding area about its decision, which it made back in August, to begin discharging water into the Pacific Ocean from crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The operator of the plant, Tepco, is utilizing on-site equipment to remove the majority of dangerous compounds; however, this technology is unable to filter out tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
The Japanese government cites a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that came to the conclusion that the discharge that was planned would “have radiological impact on people as well as the environment.”
Nevertheless, the matter is the source of persistent unease throughout the region. On Monday, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, issued an apology to the other Melanesian leaders for having expressed too quickly to the public that he was “satisfied” with the safety assurances provided by Japan.
Following the publication of the IAEA report, Rabuka expressed his “sincere apology” to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) caucus “for my statement on the Fukushima Plant’s treated water discharge.”
“My intent was never to oppose the collective views of MSG nations,” he wrote on X (which was formerly Twitter).
Rabuka told reporters that he was “realistic” about the rate of decarbonization, despite the fact that many leaders in the Pacific and organizations representing civil society urge Australia to take a far harder position against fossil fuels.
Fiji, according to Rabuka, had profited economically from Australia’s success, and he added, “We do not want to quickly kill that cow.”
Pif is an 18-member organization consisting of 16 Pacific nations, including Australia and New Zealand, and two French possessions. The climate problem is one of the most pressing concerns that is now being discussed in Pif.
On Monday night, more than 200 artists welcomed delegates to the national auditorium for the opening ceremony by shouting, singing, dancing, beating drums, and playing the pu (shell trumpet).
Te Moana Nui a Kiva, also known as the Blue Pacific Continent, is where we call home. Brown addressed other leaders, including the Australian minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, that “it is our oceans, our lands, our common heritage, and our Pacific people.”
Brown also asked all partners to respect “Our Voices, Our Choice, Our Pacific Way” in light of the fact that the region is becoming the focal point of a growing competition for influence between larger countries, notably the United States and China.
Brown stated during the occasion that “the Pacific way” is to respect each other’s sovereignty understanding that it was a battle that our ancestors fought valiantly to win.
Brown is one of the three most important leaders. Albanese is going to meet with the prime minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, and the president of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, on his first day on the island of Rarotonga. The meeting is going to take place alongside Albanese.
After the Coalition decided to discontinue supporting the Green Climate Fund in 2018, it is widely anticipated that Albanese will utilize the meetings taking place this week to reveal the magnitude of Australia’s new commitment to the Green Climate Fund.
However, Adam Bandt, the leader of the Green Party, stated that Christopher Albanese “risks becoming a Pacific pariah like Scott Morrison if he keeps backing more coal and gas.”