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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2001
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Nonproliferation
Washington, DC
January 20, 2001

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, which is also known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, establishes a nuclear weapon free zone in the South Pacific. The United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, signed the three Protocols to the Treaty on March 25, 1996, at a ceremony in Suva, Fiji.

The Treaty prohibits the testing, manufacture, acquisition, and stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of Parties to the Treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes at sea within the zone. The Treaty also requires all parties to apply full scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. A comprehensive control system has been established to verify compliance with the Treaty and there are mechanisms, including provision for mandatory on-site inspection, to assure compliance.

The Treaty affirms the right of each party to decide for itself whether to allow visits by foreign ships and aircraft to its ports and airfields. It also explicitly upholds the freedom of navigation on the high seas and passage through territorial waters guaranteed by international law.

The Treaty has three protocols. Under Protocol 1 the United States, France, and the United Kingdom are required to apply the basic provisions of the Treaty to their respective territories in the zone established by the Treaty. The Treaty will therefore apply to American Samoa and Jarvis Island. Under Protocol 2, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and China agree not to use or threaten to use nuclear explosive devices against any party to the Treaty or to each others' territories located within the zone. Under Protocol 3, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and China agree not to test nuclear explosive devices within the zone established by the Treaty.

The Treaty was opened for signature on August 6, 1985, in Rarotonga, the largest island in the Cook Islands. All members of the South Pacific Forum are eligible to accede to the Treaty. The Treaty entered into force December 11, 1986. The protocols were opened for signature on August 8, 1986, in Suva, Fiji. All five nuclear weapon states have signed the Protocols for which they are eligible. The United States, the United Kingdom and France have signed all three, whereas China and Russia are Party to Protocols 2 and 3 of the Treaty, but did not accede to Protocol 1, since neither state has territories within the zone.

The Treaty is in force in the following states and freely associated governments: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Western Samoa. Tonga signed the Treaty on August 2, 1996, but has not yet deposited its instrument of ratification.

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty*

[Treaty of Rarotonga]

Party Signed Ratified In Force
Australia 8/6/85 12/11/86 12/11/86
Cook Islands 8/6/85 10/28/85 12/11/86
Fed. State of
Micronesia
- - -
Fiji 8/6/85 10/4/85 12/11/86
Kiribati 8/6/85 10/28/86 12/11/86
Marshall Islands, Rep. - - -
Nauru 7/17/86 4/13/87 4/13/87
New Zealand 8/6/85 11/13/86 12/11/86
Niue 8/6/85 5/12/86 12/11/86
Palau - - -
Papua New Guinea 9/16/85 9/15/89 9/15/89
Solomon Islands 5/29/87 1/27/89 1/27/89
Tonga 8/2/96 - -
Tuvalu 8/6/85 1/16/86 12/11/86
Vanuatu 9/16/95 2/9/96 2/9/96
Western Samoa 8/6/85 10/20/86 12/11/86


*Done at Rarotonga, Cook Islands: 8/6/85
Entered into Force: 12/11/86
Depositary: The Secretary General, South Pacific Forum Secretariat

Protocol 1
Party Signed Ratified In Force
France 3/25/96 9/20/96 9/20/96
United Kingdom 3/25/96 9/19/97 9/19/97
United States 3/25/96 - -

Protocol 2
Party Signed Ratified In Force
China 2/10/87 10/21/88 10/21/88
France 3/25/96 9/20/96 9/20/96
United Kingdom 3/25/96 9/19/97 9/19/97
United States 3/25/96 - -
USSR (Russia) 12/15/86 4/21/88 4/21/88

Protocol 3
Party Signed Ratified In Force
China 2/10/87 10/21/88 10/21/88
France 3/25/96 9/20/96 9/20/96
United Kingdom 3/25/96 9/19/97 9/19/97
United States 3/25/96 - -
USSR (Russia) 12/15/86 4/21/88 4/21/88


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