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Nuke-free zone extension bill breaches Law of Sea

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

29 May 2002

Nuke-free zone extension bill breaches Law of Sea

The Greens Private Members’ nuclear-free zone extension Bill will not proceed because if passed it would clearly breach international legal obligations binding on New Zealand, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

“The Bill is not necessary to keep shipments of nuclear waste and fuel out of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“This has already been achieved by working with the nuclear transport states to secure their agreement not to enter our EEZ. This to date has been honoured.

“If we seek to pass legislation which we have neither the legal right nor the power to enforce, we may only succeed in provoking the opposite result.

“The Bill’s supporters are calling for a symbolic act, but the price of such symbolism would be major damage to New Zealand’s reputation as a country which abides by international law.

“The bill breaches a fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which requires all countries to allow freedom of navigation through their EEZ.

“The Law of the Sea is important because it enables us to exercise jurisdiction and control over the resources within 200 nautical miles of New Zealand but it also imposes obligations on us.

“As a small country, we rely on the rule of international law. If we show ourselves willing to breach it then we have no credibility when we seek its protection,” Mr Goff said.


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