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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, France on Disarmament, April 18, 1997


Statement by France

1. Since yesterday there has been a very full debate, which has shown the interest of the international community in the subject of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The French delegation has listened very carefully to the arguments and proposals put forward by the various speakers. It will attempt to provide some elements of replies to the questions which have been raised. As you know, the position of the five nuclear-weapon States, as well as that of the European Union, were expressed during the general debate. The position of France naturally falls within this framework.

2. With regard to nuclear disarmament, at the time of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in May 1995, France

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indicated the various measures it had taken in the field of disarmament. In particular, it specified that since 1991, it had reduced the number of its deployed nuclear weapons by about 15 per cent. Since the adoption in May 1995 of the decision on the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, France has continued its efforts to contribute to the implementation of articles VI and VII of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Concerning in particular the global reduction of nuclear arsenals, since the issue has been raised several times, this is the responsibility of the five nuclear-weapon States. In quantitative terms, this reduction should be assessed on the basis of the efforts of all five nuclear-weapon States and not in respect of the level of the arsenals of each one of them taken separately.

3. Respect for the obligations arising from article VI is therefor assured, in France's view:

(a) On the one hand, through the Russian Federation-United States of America bilateral process for the reduction of arsenals, which is the main factor, given the size of the accumulated arsenals; and France welcomes the agreement on further reductions in nuclear weapons, which was reached at Helsinki by the Presidents of the United States of America and of the Russian Federation;

(b) On the other hand, through unilateral measures.

4. France would like to give a brief account of these initiatives. France has acted at both the multilateral level and the unilateral level.

5. At the multilateral level, France signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty on 24 September 1996, after having been the first nuclear Power to agree, on 10 August 1995, that this prohibition applied to all tests at whatever level, commonly known as the "zero option". With regard to entry into force, France intends to promote steadfastly the objective of the universality of the Treaty, between now and the conference of signatory States in September 1999. In any event, it believes that the signing of the Treaty by the five nuclear-weapon States constitutes an immediate political commitment to stop nuclear tests.

6. At the unilateral level, the President of the Republic took a number of decisions in February 1996 which have already begun to be applied and whose implementation should extend over several years because of the scope of the actions undertaken:

(a) France is the only nuclear-weapon State that has closed its test range. It decided to close its nuclear test sites in the Pacific even before signing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This has been done;

(b) France unilaterally put an end to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons by stopping production of plutonium at Marcoule as of 1992 and by closing in the summer of 1996 the Pierrelatte enrichment plant, which is to be dismantled. In other words, it has not only halted the manufacture of this material, but has also undertaken to dismantle the facilities concerned;

(c) France has carried out unilateral reductions of its nuclear arsenal: dismantling of the Plateau d'Albion ground component which contained 18 megaton-head strategic missiles and final removal of 30 short-range Hades missiles.

These reductions are all the more significant, in both qualitative and quantitative terms, in that they led to the complete elimination of the ground-to-ground component of the French nuclear deterrent.

7. Many speakers have underlined the recent major developments regarding nuclear-weapon-free zones. France has participated fully in this respect. France has been a party to the two Protocols to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) since the 1970s. It signed on 25 March 1996, and ratified on 20 September 1996, the three Protocols to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga). It thus confirmed through an international commitment the closure of the Pacific nuclear testing centre. It signed on 11 April 1996, and ratified on 20 September 1996, the Treaty of Pelindaba, which establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Africa.

8. With regard to South-East Asia, France takes note of the entry into force of the Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. It welcomes the intention of the States of the region to contribute through this initiative to the strengthening of the regime for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by freely establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone. France is strongly in favour of a South-East Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone, as the President of the Republic stated the day after the Treaty was signed. France, like the other nuclear-weapon States, had an opportunity to make observations on the subject of the conformity of the text of the Treaty with international law. France proposed two amendments to the text of the protocol to resolve the difficulties and it is awaiting an answer to these proposals.

9. In addition, much has been said about security assurances. Some delegations have made proposals in this regard. France has not waited for this debate to act on this issue. Following the adoption of Security Council resolution 984 (1995), of 11 April 1995, new measures were taken in accordance with decision 2. These are security assurances granted by each of the five nuclear-weapon States pursuant to their accession to the relevant protocols of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones. France has not only signed but also ratified the protocols relating to the South Pacific and to Africa. Together with its prior commitments under the Treaty of Tlatelolco, these instruments confirm its security assurances vis-à-vis about 100 States parties to these treaties and to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The guarantees which France has accorded to non-nuclear-weapon States in contractual form are already in force with regard to 44 States. In order for these guarantees to enter into force with regard to the other 60 States concerned as well, those States in turn simply need to ratify the relevant international instruments.

10. France therefore considers that, in conformity with the terms of decision 2, new stages have been reached with regard to security assurances, and it observes that these stages are part of a broader context of security, both global and regional. This is the progress, substantial in its opinion, which France has made since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. France will now outline some of the prospects that the future of disarmament should hold in store, in its view.

11. As the United States representative rightly said, the nuclear disarmament process cannot be separated completely from efforts to control other types of weapons which continue to threaten the security of many States in all parts of the world. Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons links the pursuit of negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear-arms race and to nuclear disarmament with a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

12. In accordance with this last aspect of the provisions of article VI of the Treaty, France is working for general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control in a resolute and concrete manner:

(a) It was the first Member State of the Security Council to ratify the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. It welcomes the entry into force in April 1997, of the first universal disarmament treaty that outlaws an entire category of weapons of mass destruction and is effectively verifiable through a multilateral monitoring system;

(b) With regard to the addition of a verification protocol to the 1972 Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, France, together with its European Union partners, has proposed that the ongoing negotiations in Geneva should be concluded as soon as possible, if possible by mid-1998;

(c) On 25 November 1996 France lifted the reservations it had formulated at the time of ratifying the Protocol for Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. France is, so far, the only Member State of the Security Council to have done so;

(d) France is also contributing in a decisive manner to the negotiation and adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. These negotiations will make it possible to maintain the integrity of the Treaty and preserve its stabilizing influence on European security;

(e) Lastly, France strongly supports the objective of a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel landmines pursuant to resolution 51/45 S adopted by an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly on 10 December 1996.

13. Three years remain before the 2000 Review Conference. During that time, we can progress towards the full implementation of the Treaty. Opportunities are available now. A leading role can be played right now by the international community if it immediately starts to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

14. With regard to the role of the nuclear Powers alone in respect of the reduction of arsenals, France hopes that after the Helsinki summit, the Treaty on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons (START II) will be ratified by the Russian Federation, effective measures will be taken within the timetable envisaged, and discussions on a START III Treaty will be actively undertaken. France, for its part, has never taken part in the arms race, and the unilateral measures which have been described have had the effect of adjusting to the new international context capacities which have always been based exclusively on the concept of strict sufficiency. The difference in proportion between these capacities and those which will be left, despite the major decisions taken, after the agreements reached between the two main nuclear Powers, mean that a French participation in negotiations on the reduction of arsenals is not relevant.

15. As the President of the Republic stated in 1996:

"Our deterrent capacity has been determined, in the new plan, at a level which is strictly gauged to guarantee our security. The size of the strategic and tactical arsenals that will still exist for a long time in the Russian Federation and in the United States of America remains incomparably greater than capacities of France or of the United Kingdom. Too many uncertainties affect the essential parameters of our defense in the future, such as the anti-ballistic missile Treaty, a guarantor of strategic stability, and respect for non-proliferation regimes."