MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IMMIGRATION
Government of the Cook Islands
19 December 1996
JAPANESE RADIOACTIVE WASTE SHIPMENT
Government has voiced deep concern over the planned shipment of radioactive waste through the Region by the Japanese.
"Naturally, we are very concerned that Japan has resumed shipping its nuclear waste, particularly so since the chosen route appears to take the vessel through the South West Pacific", said deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Hon. Inatio Akaruru CBE today.
"The Japanese must understand that our deep concern for the environment, and the dependency on the ocean's natural resources for the Region's livelihood, demands that we make every effort to protect this part of the world from threats such as nuclear waste".
The safety aspect of such shipments was therefore critical and South Pacific Forum member countries needed to be kept informed about any developments, he said.
Mr. Akaruru said he was disappointed that Forum countries had only found out about the planned shipments through media reports and leaked documents by Greenpeace. While the environmentalist group was obviously doing a good job of acting as watchdog, there has nevertheless been an understanding of cooperation that the Japanese Government would consult with the Forum about developments with regard to shipping nuclear waste and plutonium.
"We would not like to assume that these shipments are planned and organised by Japan to take advantage of a perceived acquiescence on the part of the Forum countries", said Mr. Akaruru.
"The Forum has expressed its deep concern over the shipments several times, and the Cook Islands is a part of that."
Mr. Akaruru said the consultation arrangement had worked well, and he hoped that the Japanese Government would continue to work closely with the Forum Secretariat. This process is vital as Forum member countries needed to make informed decisions about the transportation of nuclear waste, particularly in terms of the safety aspect of shipping.
On whether the Government would allow such transhipping through Cook Islands waters, the Deputy Prime Minister said there was strong doubt that such permission would be granted. The current procedure for granting diplomatic clearance for vessels, and aircraft, involves full Cabinet consideration.
"Government would need to be satisfied that any ship carrying nuclear waste material was operating in full compliance with stringent international regulations," said Mr. Akaruru.
"Apart from investigating our own rights and obligations under international law and existing conventions, I doubt that the people of the Cook Islands would ever agree to allowing such ships in our waters, and the Government would respect those wishes.
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