REVIEW CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE TREATY
ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (NPT)
SPEECH BY FRANCE'S PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE DISARMAMENT CONFERENCE
NEW YORK, 25 APRIL 2000
I should first like to congratulate you most warmly on your election as President of this Review Conference. You can rely on the full support of the French delegation in the exercise of your important duties. It will spare no effort to contribute, under your leadership, to the success of the Conference.
The 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons marked a decisive step in the reinforcement of the non-proliferation instruments and in the nuclear disarmament process.
By taking the decision to extend the Treaty indefinitely, the States Parties chose to preserve its considerable achievements since it entered into force in 1970. In so doing, they provided a long-term foundation for this cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime, on which nuclear disarmament rests.
By adopting two other Decisions, one on strengthening the review process for the Treaty and the other on the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as a Resolution on the Middle East, we had emphasised that the Treaty's extension went hand in hand with a dynamic and proactive approach to the Treaty's implementation.
The 2000 NPT Review Conference is a landmark event for the international community. It gives us an opportunity to take stock on essential issues, in the framework of the reinforced review process. It is incumbent on us to do all we can to preserve and to consolidate the NPT as an irreplaceable instrument.
The success of this undertaking entails a comprehensive and balanced approach in the three key areas covered by the Treaty: non-proliferation, the peaceful applications of atomic energy, and disarmament. My country is convinced that the documents adopted in 1995 remain of fundamental importance as a guide to our work in the review process. We reiterated this in the common position adopted by the European Council on 13 April, which we deem a very valuable contribution to the work of the Conference.
Article VI of the Treaty has conferred on my country special responsibilities as a nuclear-weapon State. Therefore, I should like to begin by going into the detail of the implementation of the NPT's section on disarmament (Part I). I shall then discuss the two other issues, that of safeguards (Part II) and of the peaceful applications of atomic energy (Part III).
I/ As regards nuclear disarmament, Decision 2 of 1995 introduced an ambitious and practical programme. What has it achieved to date and what are the prospects for the future?
1. I should first like to emphasize the unilateral measures adopted by France and the United Kingdom.
France committed itself unequivocally in favour of nuclear disarmament in accordance with the provisions of article VI and of Decision 2 of 1995. Allow me to briefly recall the scope of the measures which were taken:
- With the complete elimination of the land-based nuclear component, our assets are now limited to two components. Moreover, we have reduced the format of the airborne and sea-based components. In parallel, the total number of delivery vehicles has been cut by more than half.
- With the ratification of the CTBT, the definitive closure of the Mururoa test site, the termination of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and the ongoing dismantling of the corresponding facilities, France has taken radical, irreversible and unparalleled measures.
- The operational characteristics of our nuclear forces have been adapted. With the dismantling of the French Albion Plateau surface-to-surface missiles, no component of the French nuclear deterrent force is any longer aimed at designated targets. The alert status of our nuclear forces was reduced twice, as announced on 9 June 1992 and 23 February 1996.
- Lastly, by giving the security assurances referred to in UNSCR 984 and by ratifying the relevant protocols to the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, which are legally binding instruments concerning more than a hundred States, France has met the legitimate security concerns of those countries.
Informing and explaining have become imperatives of our time. France is convinced of the merits of enhanced transparency as a true voluntary confidence-building measure designed to support disarmament efforts. Our actions, such as the opening of the test site in the Pacific to international visits, bear witness to this determination to achieve transparency. The reference work produced by the French government and distributed here today is wholly consistent with this desire for transparency.
2. We salute the achievements of the bilateral process between the United States and the Russian Federation, most recently illustrated by the authorisation for the ratification of START II by the Russian Parliament. We are all aware of the central contribution to the nuclear disarmament process made by the global reduction of strategic nuclear arsenals deployed by these two key players, through the START agreements.
3. Lastly, as regards the multilateral process, a milestone was passed with the negotiation and conclusion of the CTBT on schedule, barely a year after the 1995 conference. However, its entry into force still remains highly uncertain and we call on all States that haven't yet done so, in particular those among the 44 States whose ratification is necessary for this, to sign and ratify the CTBT at an early date. The Russian Federation's ratification of the CTBT is a particularly positive sign which we welcome.
Furthermore, negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, the next inescapable step in the process, have not yet begun at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. France regrets that this negotiation hasn't yet started.
France regrets this all the more in that it has, for its part, spared no effort in seeking to get the steps defined by Decision 2 of 1995 implemented as soon as possible. It signed the CTBT on 24 September 1996 and was the first nuclear-weapon State, together with the United Kingdom, to ratify it on 6 April 1998. France moreover committed itself very strongly, notably in spring 1998, in favour of the immediate commencement of the cut-off negotiations.
B/ Today, we call on the international community to acknowledge the importance of this achievement so that we can get a better understanding of possible ways forward. What should be our preoccupations during the next five years?
The world is still going through a period of change and instability and seeking a new equilibrium. Faced with this situation, it appears to us more indispensable than ever before to preserve and to implement Decision 2 of 1995. Nothing would be more dangerous than attempting to redraft every five years the fundamental principles and objectives contained in this key document. By definition, the principles, laid down to overcome short-term unforeseen events, are of global reach. As to the objectives, these cannot be subjected solely to timetable imperatives.
1. Thus, our priority remains unchanged, i.e. to secure the early entry into force of the CTBT, and a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons thanks to the immediate launch of effective "cut off" negotiations.
We must adopt this approach for three reasons.
Firstly, because these are steps whose importance in helping fully to implement Article VI of the NPT was recognised in a consensual manner in Decision 2 of 1995 by the States Party to the NPT because of the merits of these two treaties: the CTBT and the FMCT are constituent elements of the nuclear disarmament process, one contributing to curbing the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and the other helping to cap their quantitative development.
Secondly, this is the only approach that makes it possible to secure the adherence by all States, whether party or not to the NPT, to universal, non-discriminatory, verifiable and hence credible standards. This is the only way for us to ensure that this authentic and indispensable multilateral process regains its full relevance.
This approach, finally, enables States that have chosen not to participate in the NPT to prove their will to shoulder their responsibilities and thereby demonstrate their commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. A move in this direction would help permanently to strengthen the NPT. It doubtless would contribute significantly to easing regional tensions, especially in South Asia and the Middle East.
2. My country, which has always refused to engage in competition with the other nuclear powers, is determined to pursue resolutely in the future the policy of strict sufficiency that has always guided its action. As regards reducing the arsenals, it is important to pursue their global reduction - there's still no possible comparison between those of the United States and the Russian Federation and those of the other nuclear-weapon States. Their negotiations are especially important at a time when the risk of a revival of the arms race and break down of the strategic balance, compounded by the proliferation of ballistic weapons, is not negligible.
France attaches the utmost importance to maintaining strategic stability, of which the ABM treaty is a essential element. It is anxious to avoid any challenges to the Treaty liable to lead to upsetting the strategic equilibrium and restarting the arms race.
3. Some have expressed disappointment at the slowness of this complex process and put forward a number of new proposals. This Review Conference will give us the opportunity to debate these issues. Confident of the power of dialogue, France has already clearly indicated its readiness to discuss all issues relating to nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament, subject to a mandate adopted by consensus.
Regarding general and complete disarmament, the achievements of the past five years deserve to be highlighted. Let me mention, for instance, major breakthroughs such as the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, as well as the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Fresh efforts will allow us to go further, in particular in order to conclude a verification protocol to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. France has participated fully in such efforts and will continue to do so.
To conclude on nuclear disarmament, I wish to point out that the approach I have just described is based on an objective study of the past and of realistic prospects for the future. In our view, it appears to be the one most likely to ensure the success of the work of this Conference, which we are all aiming for.
II/ The issue of verification is obviously a central one in regard to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The safeguards system implemented for the past twenty-five years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is therefore of paramount importance for the full and effective implementation of the Treaty.
This system has in the past been severely tested. There are still major issues at stake.
In this respect, France can only express once again its concern about the repeated obstructions on the part of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea of the Agency's efforts to secure the implementation of the North Korean safeguards agreement. As the Director-General of the IAEA reminded us at the 43rd General Conference: "the Agency remains unable to verify that all nuclear material subject to guarantees in the DPRK have been declared to the Agency". France calls on the DPRK to abide fully by the commitments it has subscribed to.
Iraq is also a cause for concern. Through the verification programme it had conducted in Iraq since 1991 - an important task, efficiently performed, to whose results France pays tribute - the Agency had been able to draw a technically coherent picture of Iraq's illegal military nuclear programme. Even if some points remain to be clarified, these do not prevent the implementation of the system of continuous surveillance. It is highly regrettable that since 16 December 1998, all cooperation has been broken off between this country, the IAEA and the Special Commission, since the Agency has no longer been able to fulfil its mandate.
Since the adoption on 17 December 1999 by the Security Council of SCR 1284, the process leading to the resumption of inspection activities in Iraq is now under way. France is giving its full support to Mr Hans Blix, and to the new Commission, in implementing all the provisions of SCR 1284.
Despite these difficulties, the international community has succeeded in adapting and strengthening this safeguards system over the years so as to preserve its credibility and reliability. The adoption by the Council of Governors of the IAEA on 15 May 1997 of a model additional protocol to the safeguards agreement was a major step in this direction.
It is now essential to achieve rapidly the universality of this strengthened system and to help the IAEA take up this challenge, in particular by providing it with the resources it needs to implement this programme. France, for its part, was keen to set an example by signing on 22 September 1998 of a strengthened safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the European Atomic Energy Community. France will do its utmost to ratify this as early as possible.
Allow me to conclude on this point by saluting the remarkable work carried out by the Agency in the service of non-proliferation, our common objective. My country reiterates its full support for the Agency and follows with great interest the work launched under its aegis with a view to setting up an integrated safeguards system. We think the aim of this work should be to develop a system combining the necessary cost control with even greater effectiveness.
III/ France, which firmly believes that nuclear power contributes to human progress, attaches very special importance to the widest possible access to the peaceful uses of nuclear power. To this end, my country is cooperating with an increasing number of countries and institutions and actively participating in the development of relevant international instruments in this area.
Peaceful uses, international cooperation and exchanges in this area have to develop in a climate of confidence that can exist only if activities relating to nuclear power satisfy three requirements that cannot be ignored: security, safety and transparency.
Meeting the security requirements for nuclear materials and facilities is one of the fundamental stakes in the fight against proliferation and illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials. The international community has to be sure that cooperation and exchanges cannot give rise to any misappropriation of materials. Hence the need for effective, objective and transparent export controls. Hence the need too for States' active support for and adherence to the IAEA safeguards system.
Safety is undoubtedly one of the key points raised by the use of nuclear power. It has to be a permanent concern and improve in all areas. We call on all States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Nuclear Safety Convention and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
Lastly, the transparency requirement. My country firmly believes that nuclear development should be accompanied by the utmost transparency so as to help make governments and populations aware of what is at stake. The advantages of nuclear power can be exploited only if the general public can be convinced that it is a source of energy which respects the environment and is safe. In this area, as in the others, international cooperation is essential.
In conclusion, my delegation is convinced that the success of this Conference will be an important signal for the revival of momentum and the recreation of the virtuous circle of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and will give a strong impetus to international cooperation. Such a success is within reach, provided we are able to work, in the coming days, in a constructive and realistic spirit of compromise. You can rest assured that my country is wholly willing to work towards this.