The Southeast Asian region is believed to be the transfer location of various components which can be used in the development of nuclear weapons by nuclear proliferation supporters in the world. If the government is not vigilant and does not impose strict regulations to govern it, the ideal of global nuclear weapons disarmament will be more difficult to achieve.
This opinion was asserted at a seminar entitled “Nuclear Energy, Nonproliferation and Strategic Trade Management: The Nexus of Security and Economic Management” in Jakarta on 19 July 2011. The seminar was held by the US Embassy in Jakarta and the Center for International Trade and Security (CITS) of the University of Georgia, US.
According to CITS senior analyst, Seema Gahlaut, in a number of disclosed trade plots of nuclear weapon components, it was discovered that some Southeast Asian countries has become the transit points or even the producers of the components. The most famous case is the disclosure of the nuclear proliferation network of Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Khan was considered as the father of the Pakistani nuclear weapons after he successfully developed the centrifuge technology for the uranium enrichment process. That technology was then transferred to North Korea, and had allegedly been shipped to Iran and Libya.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
According to Gahlaut, some of the centrifuge components such as the steel material for the rotor and the cap were actually produced by Singaporean and Malaysian companies. In another case it was found out that components of strategic weapons technology which were prohibited by European countries to be shipped to China were actually shipped to that country through Malaysia.
Gahlaut emphasized that what happened in Malaysia could possibly happen in Indonesia as well. She said: ‘After Singapore imposed stricter (export-import) regulations in 2004, the proliferation network moved to other countries in Southeast Asia.’
In those cases, according to Gahlaut, the country used as a transit route or companies producing such components did not realize that the products could be used in the assembling process of illegal weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to the lack of technical knowledge among law enforcers in the concerned country, the components also have other usages in the civilian fields such as in medicine, so that they can pass the customs service.
In the Asher Karni proliferation network case in 2004, the transferred device was a triggered spark gap. This component can be used not only in a machine to break kidney stones in hospitals, but it can also serve as a detonator for nuclear bombs.
Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
From the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali, the South East Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEAN WFZ) agreement was agreed upon to not only bind ASEAN member countries, but also countries possessing nuclear weapons that want to show their forces in South East Asia.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that an understanding emerged that the agreement should also regulate the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This is in line with the three basic pillars of the nuclear issue, namely nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.