Treaty of Rarotonga

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Coordinates: 21°13′42.8″S 159°46′35.5″W / 21.228556°S 159.776528°W / -21.228556; -159.776528

  Signed and ratified Treaty of Rarotonga
     Nuclear-weapon-free zones      NW states      Nuclear sharing      NPT only

The Treaty of Rarotonga is the common name for the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, which formalises a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. The treaty bans the use, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons within the borders of the zone.[1][2]

It was signed by the South Pacific nations of Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu on the island of Rarotonga (where the capital of the Cook Islands is located) on 6 August 1985, came into force on 11 December 1986 with the 8th ratification, and has since been ratified by all of those states.

The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau are not party to the treaties but are eligible to become parties should they decide to join the treaty in the future.

Protocols binding other states[edit]

There are three protocols to the treaty, which have been signed by the five declared nuclear states, with the exception of Protocol 1 for China and Russia who have no territory in the Zone.

  1. no manufacture, stationing or testing in their territories within the Zone
  2. no use against the Parties to the Treaty, or against territories where Protocol 1 is in force
  3. no testing within the Zone

In 1996 France and the United Kingdom signed and ratified the three protocols. The United States signed them the same year but has not ratified them. China signed and ratified protocols 2 and 3 in 1987. Russia has also ratified protocols 2 and 3 with reservations.[3]

Scope of applicability[edit]

High seas highlighted in blue.

The treaty's different provisions apply variously to the Zone, to the territories within the Zone, or globally.

"South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone" means the area :

plus three projections north of the Equator to include the territory and territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Kiribati, but minus the northwest corner beyond Australian territorial waters and near Indonesia (and the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone).

Several islands in the Indian Ocean also belong to Australia and are therefore part of the zone.

"Territory" means internal waters, territorial sea and archipelagic waters, the seabed and subsoil beneath, the land territory and the airspace above them. It does not include international waters. Article 2 says "Nothing in this Treaty shall prejudice or in any way affect the rights, or the exercise of the rights, of any State under international law with regard to freedom of the seas."

The Treaty is an agreement between nation-states and as such of course cannot apply to those who have not signed the treaty or protocols, for example, the four countries not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, who are all nuclear powers.

List of states and territories[edit]

State Signed Deposited
 Australia Sep 6, 1985 Dec 11, 1986
 Cook Islands Sep 6, 1985 Oct 28, 1985
 Fiji Sep 6, 1985 Oct 4, 1985
 Kiribati Sep 6, 1985 Oct 28, 1985
 Nauru Jul 17, 1986 May 13, 1987
 New Zealand Sep 6, 1985 Nov 13, 1986
 Niue Sep 6, 1985 May 12, 1986
 Papua New Guinea Sep 16, 1985 Sep 15, 1989
 Samoa Sep 6, 1985 Oct 20, 1986
 Solomon Islands May 29, 1987 Jan 27, 1989
 Tonga Jul 2, 1996 Dec 18, 2000
 Tuvalu Sep 6, 1985 Jan 16, 1986
 Vanuatu Sep 16, 1995 Feb 9, 1996
Territory State
Ashmore and Cartier Islands  Australia
Christmas Island  Australia
Cocos (Keeling) Islands  Australia
Coral Sea Islands  Australia
Heard Island and McDonald Islands  Australia
Norfolk Island  Australia
French Polynesia  France
New Caledonia  France
Wallis and Futuna  France
Tokelau New Zealand
Pitcairn Islands United Kingdom


  1. ^ "South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga)" (PDF). Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  2. ^ "South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty of Rarotonga | Treaties & Regimes | NTI". Nuclear Threat Initiative | NTI. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Ratifications" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Disarmament Treaties Database: Treaty of Rarotonga". UNODA – United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs.

External links[edit]