Media Release: No [air] space for ambiguity with nuclear-capable B-52s

Feb 17, 2023 | News

Media Release: No [air] space for ambiguity with nuclear-capable B-52s

17th February 2023

Nobel Peace Prize recipient ICAN has called for Australia to never accept a policy of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ about whether nuclear weapons will be within Australian territory.

“Australia should reject any presence of nuclear weapons in its territory, including airspace and waters, even if in transit”, said ICAN Australia director Gem Romuld. “We are a sovereign state and can both set and should adhere to the rules.”

The proposal to deploy US nuclear weapons-capable B-52 bombers at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory would contribute to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in our region. ICAN maintains that stationing these aircraft at Tindal or elsewhere would be a breach of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (SPNFZ), or Rarotonga Treaty.

Article 5 of the SPNFZ states that ‘Each Party undertakes to prevent in its territory the stationing of any nuclear explosive device.’ As a state party, it is essential that Australia does not allow the deployment of nuclear weapons on the B-52 aircraft anticipated to be stationed at RAAF Tindal. With dedicated facilities including an ammunition depot, maintenance and parking areas, the presence of the B-52s goes beyond mere transit.

“We should not abrogate to any other state our sovereign responsibility to comply with our treaty obligations. And the US is the only one of the five nuclear-armed members of the UN Security Council which has not joined the protocols of the Raratonga Treaty,” said Romuld.

The Australian Labor Party’s commitment to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) represents a widely-supported and important rejection of nuclear weapons. Advancing a clear humanitarian response to the destructive power of these weapons is particularly pivotal at this uncertain global time.

The TPNW prohibits hosting nuclear weapons as well as assistance with their use or possession. The deployment of nuclear-capable aircraft in Australia risks inconsistency with the SPNFZ and TPNW and would undermine both Australian government policy and the ALP’s national policy platform.

“As over half the deployed US B52s cannot carry nuclear weapons, it is entirely feasible for B52s visiting Australia not to bring nuclear weapons into our country,” Romuld stated.

“There can be no place for semantics when it comes to nuclear war-planning”, said Romuld. “Should Australia move ahead with US B-52s at Tindal, the federal government must demand clarity from the US about their nuclear capabilities. Our country cannot be allowed to sleepwalk into becoming a facilitator of weapons of mass destruction.”

Media inquiries: Jesse Boylan: 0457 777 504 – jesse@icanw.org