Go to Home Page
  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, France for Strengthened Review Process, May 12, 1999

Statement from S.E. Monsieur Hubert

Mr. Chairman,

Since the previous, 1995 review conference, we are engaged in what can be termed "a strengthened review process" for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), according to the wording of the Decision I adopted at the time.

The first, 1997 session of the Preparatory Committee set the tone. It allowed substantive exchanges on all issues covered by the NPT and ended with the drafting of common language included in the agreed part of the document entitled "Chairman's Working Paper".

Printer Friendly

More on the Web
Acronym Institute

The Committee's second session in 1998 adopted a long-term perspective. Beyond the general debate and the work on the three main committees, it widened substantive work to include three previously identified issues: the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), negative security assurances, and the Resolution on the Middle East. The so-called consensual part of the Chairman's working paper has been significantly enlarged and improved.

Yet, the prevalent view is that the Committee's second session has failed, insofar as we were unable to assume collective responsibility for its outcome. Everyone is aware of the reasons behind this or, rather, everyone has their own reasons. I would not want to take the risk here of identifying or qualifying them. It seems to me, however, that in building on the momentum of the Committee's first session, the second one was possibly too ambitious. Let us therefore refrain from seeking to turn these meetings into so many mini-review conferences. This is not the objective we were set in 1995.

Mr. Chairman,

What is at stake in the Committee's third session appears simple to me. It is to put us back on the right track, that of reason and responsibility. First, we must prepare the ground for the 2000 Review Conference by providing a timetable, rules of procedure, financial rules, documentation, etc. We should then deepen the areas of convergence between us so as to anticipate the review conference's possible outcome. The chairmen's working papers for the Committee's first two sessions are a useful and necessary working base for my delegation.

Mr. Chairman,

The French delegation is addressing the Committee's third session in an open and constructive spirit.

I should now like to express in greater details the views of the French delegation on the NPT's nuclear disarmament component, bearing in mind France's responsibility with respect to Article V1. After a report on the actions undertaken by France, I shall describe its achievements in more detail, before outlining prospects for the future.



Following thirty years of efforts and negotiations, the signing in New York on September 24, 1996 of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was a milestone along the road to nuclear disarmament. In concert with the United Kingdom, France deposited its instrument of ratification on April 6, 1998 in New York. The work of the Vienna Preparatory Commission makes it possible to hope for an international monitoring system to be established in the not too distant future. France is sparing no effort to reach this objective. The issue of the CTBT's entry into force is all the more crucial. The preparation of a Conference as provided for in Article XIV, paragraph 2. of the CTBT is well underway. It should make a significant contribution to tackling the issue of the CTBT's entry into force. Signature by 152 States indeed endows the CTBT with moral and political authority. Aside from the 32 States which have ratified the treaty already, the French delegation appeals in particular to those of the 44 States whose ratification is required for the treaty to enter into force. The responsibility of nuclear-weapon States in this respect is evident. It does not exonerate other States from their own responsibility. Following the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in May 1998, the French delegation noted the statements issued soon after by both Governments about their signing and ratifying the CTBT.

2) Reduction of arsenals

You are all aware that the global reduction of the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Russian Federation is a contribution central to the nuclear disarmament process. The momentum of the START treaties is today reliant on the entry into force of START II and thus on ratification by the Duma of the Russian Federation. Following START II, almost two-thirds of the pre-existing strategic systems at the time of the Cold War will no longer be operational. This gives a clear picture of the ground that has been covered. This process must be supported, particularly as regards the conversion of weapons fissile material designated in excess of defense requirements. In this respect, France welcomes the trilateral agreement concluded between the United States, the Russian Federation and the 1AEA. For its part, my country assumes - and will continue to do so with other countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany - an effective participation in the effort for the conversion of nuclear weapons fissile materials, which is in fact the object of the AIDA program.

The nature of the process itself, however, is in no way altered by the essential support we provide in helping to reduce nuclear arsenals.

The primary responsibility in fact rests with the United States and the Russian Federation which must continue and intensify their bilateral negotiations. In this respect, the launch of the START III negotiations is eagerly awaited. My delegation noted with interest the realism of many of the declarations made at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on the impossibility of addressing the nuclear arsenals reduction process in a multilateral forum.

As for unilateral measures, the very concept means they do not lend themselves to negotiations in a multilateral forum, whichever it may be. I will return to the measures taken by France unilaterally.

Will the three other nuclear-weapon States one day be able to join in the nuclear arsenals reduction process conducted bilaterally by the United States and the Russian Federation? This is a long-term issue which it is today premature to address.

3) Security assurances

My delegation has had the opportunity of saying in other fora that the issue of negative security assurances is not, strictly speaking, a top priority for France. It is, nevertheless, a key element in the balance to be achieved between non-proliferation imperatives and nuclear disarmament requirements. France has therefore assumed its responsibilities in giving negative security assurances. There is no need to recall here the terms of the Security Council resolution 984. To date, France has signed and ratified legally binding protocols concerning more than a hundred States. It is actively involved, together with other countries, in the consultations being held with the five Central Asian countries on a project for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. Together with its four nuclear-weapon-States partners, France is conducting in-depth exchanges with the promoters of the Bangkok Treaty aimed at making it fully effective. Without undermining the principles intrinsic to the nuclear-weapon-free zone concept, France, alongside other nuclear-weapon States, is seeking to meet the legitimate security concerns of Mongolia.

The French delegation last year welcomed the re-forming of the CD's Ad Hoc Committee on negative security assurances. The work conducted since then under the well-informed supervision of Ambassador de Icaza of Mexico has demonstrated, were it necessary at this stage, the importance of discussing this issue within the CD in Geneva. France still believes that the issue of negative security assurances is better addressed at the Conference on Disarmament. Is it necessary to recall that neither the NPT Review Conference nor, a fortiori, the Preparatory Committees, are negotiating fora or likely to become so? In reality, the CD's role is complementary to the legislative instruments drawn up on a regional basis.

The Conference on Disarmament is the forum best suited to address the tricky issue of assurances since it brings together States representative of the entire international community, including those from regions where this issue is more acutely relevant - I have in mind, naturally, the Middle East and South Asia.

France is prepared, moreover, to address the issue of positive security assurances. In a statement to the Conference on Disarmament on April 6, 1995, France for the first time clarified its position on positive security assurances. We are prepared to discuss them further.



1) The dismantlement of Mururoa

France put a complete stop to nuclear testing in January 1996. The name of Mururoa is still in our memories. In addition to the commitments it made by signing and then ratifying the CTBT, France took the decision to close down and then completely dismantle its Pacific Test Site facilities. In so doing, France rendered irreversible both its political decision to cease nuclear testing and the legally binding commitment contained in the CTBT not to resume them. This went hand in hand with the constant determination to provide information and achieve transparency. A team put together under the aegis of the IAEA handed in a report on the harmlessness of the Mururoa tests to the environment and the health of populations in the region. The report and its annexes were widely circulated at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters.

In 1998, France completed the dismantlement of its Pacific Testing Site facilities - located on the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls - which can be regarded today as a thing of the past.

2) Cessation of production of fissile material

As my delegation has pointed out on previous occasions, France has by now completely ceased to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. It ceased producing plutonium for use in military explosive devices in 1992 and highly enriched uranium in 1996. It issued a moratorium on the permanent cessation of the production of these materials and calls on countries not yet having done so to act likewise.

In line with the decision to dismantle its Pacific Test Site facilities, France pledged to close down and dismantle the Marcoule reprocessing plant and the Pierrelatte enrichment plant. These long and costly operations began in 1998 and will last several years. They further contribute to the irreversibility of France's commitments.

3) Adapting the French nuclear component

France has spared no effort in adapting its nuclear deterrent component to the evolution of the post-Cold War strategic context.

The format of its deterrent force now rests on two components only, instead of the previous three: a sea component and an airborne one. There is no more surface-to-surface component, and the corresponding Plateau d'Albion missiles and mobile short-range Hadès missiles have been completely dismantled.

The nuclear arsenal's alert status has also been reduced. As early as June 9, 1992, the President of the Republic announced that the strategic sea component would in the future only be served by two or three ballistic missile nuclear submarines (SSBNs), as against three on permanent duty in the past. it was also indicated at the time that the operational constraints of the air component would be significantly lightened. The reform underway within the French armed forces, announced by the President of the Republic on February 23, 1996, is enabling France to maintain two ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs) on permanent sea duty if necessary.

The de-targeting of strategic French nuclear weapons has become a reality. On September 26, 1997, the President of the Republic announced, in response to the initiative taken in Paris on May 17, 1997 by his Russian Federation counterpart, that, following the dismantlement of the Plateau d'Albion surface-to-surface missiles, no part of the French nuclear deterrent force was any longer targeted.

You will have seen, through this presentation, that the French authorities attach the utmost importance to informing the international community as much as possible on tricky and highly sensitive issues. To this end, French efforts are described in full in an information brochure which will be available to the Delegations by the end of the present session.


1) Universality

The May 1995 NPT Review Conference adopted the decision to extend the treaty indefinitely. It was at the time, and still is, a vital decision making the non-proliferation regime into a long-term process. In order to achieve balance, the NPT's extension calls for its necessary universality even more acutely. How can the nuclear tests conducted in South Asia immediately following the Committee's second session in May 1998 not be a cause for serious concern? Beyond their negative impact on the South Asian security environment, they run counter to global efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. How can we fail to worry, moreover, about the persistence of tensions in the Middle East? The French delegation is of the opinion that the adoption in 1995 of a resolution on the Middle East and its follow-up to date are necessary, despite last year's difficulties, to help the non-proliferation regime take root in the region.

The utmost must be done to create the conditions for the future accession of countries that are still not parties to the NPT. In this respect, the statements on the CTBT and the launch of the FMCT are encouraging signs, which should rapidly be given concrete expression.

In contrast, the accession by Brazil to the NPT since our previous meeting is to be saluted. As a major actor on the regional and international stage, Brazil has provided a founding act for the NPT to take root permanently in Latin America.

I have returned in this section, which focuses on the future, to the issue of universality as it is one of the key requirements for achieving significant advances in the fields of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.


On August 11, 1998, the CD decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee for negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, thus opening the way for the effective negotiation of the FMCT with a landmark initiative.

Last fall, the General Assembly confirmed unanimously this commitment given by the international community.

But the resumption of work during the first half of the CD's 1998 session fell far short of the stated aims. The credibility of the CD and of all its member states is now at stake. The international community turned to the Geneva-based forum and set it a clear objective, namely to start the FMCT negotiations. This issue must be addressed resolutely and without further delay. Wars of words, quibbles over procedure, and dilatory maneuverings will be of little consequence in relation to our responsibility in history.

Yet we should be capable of setting limits to the task assigned to us. Our common ambition is enshrined in the very wording of the report and the mandate proposed in 1995 by Ambassador Shannon, as:

- non-discriminatory,

- multilateral,

- internationally and effectively verifiable.

France very much hopes that the countries responsible for the current stalemate will finally see reason. It is preparing to participate actively in the FMCT negotiations as soon as they start.

3) Nuclear disarmament

A simple conception and a linear reading of the decisions adopted at the 1995 NPT Review Conference would inevitably lead to this question being asked: what more should be done?

Nothing would be further from reality than this over-simplistic interpretation. I believe I have shown the scope and the difficulty of the tasks awaiting us, particularly as regards universality and the FMCT. These challenges will not be resolved by the forthcoming review conference. To have people believe that the scope of the "Declaration on principles and objectives" extends only for the five-year period from 1995 to 2000 would, in the opinion of the French delegation, be a mistake. By definition, the principles put forward have a more general and virtually normative scope. As to the objectives, they are too far-reaching, given the constraints of the timetable.

For all this, should we refrain from reflecting on future prospects? Certainly not. Researchers, the body of non-governmental organizations, the evolution of strategic doctrines, security imperatives and financial constraints all incite us to do the opposite.

The French delegation has made it clear that it is available to discuss at the Conference on Disarmament the issues linked to nuclear disarmament as a whole. A plan was defined to this end in 1998. Should some have been dissatisfied with it, we are prepared to make changes to it and to answer point by point the criticisms made. More specifically, France is prepared to join in a consensus that would arise on the basis of the proposal elaborated by Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway and the Netherlands to establish a working group and the mandate pertaining to it.

The current Committee can help us exchange our views and support the efforts undertaken in this respect within the Conference on Disarmament.

Mr. Chairman,

On concluding, permit me to make a few, more general observations.

Advances in the fields of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are fueled by the contributions of and the results gained within the multilateral fora such as, first and foremost, the meeting of States parties to the NPT, the work of the IAEA and the CTBTO, as well as the discussions by the First Committee and the debates within the United Nations Disarmament Commission, not forgetting of course the negotiations launched and concluded within the Conference on Disarmament. These necessary contributions are nonetheless insufficient. As I mentioned earlier, progress is also indispensable at the bilateral and unilateral levels. But I would like to return to an aspect which is all too often ignored or deliberately covered up. There are radical differences between multilateral commitments and unilateral actions: of a legal - everyone is agreed on that - but above all, of a political and strategic nature. In this respect, the unilateral measures agreed to by the nuclear-weapon States within the meaning of the NPT, are linked to their perception of the global and regional security environment. This is why the end of the Cold War allowed significant advances. Conversely, a multilateral approach to the nuclear arsenals reduction process would undoubtedly be counterproductive. Many are aware of this, but few actually say so. I, for one, wished to recall this here.

Mr. Chairman,

In the course of my speech, I have dwelled on two concepts, that of transparency and that of irreversibility. Each of these concepts requires a proven political will so as to be implemented. The French authorities have this political will. Their actions bear witness to this. The clear presentation in the brochure which will be made available to the Delegations of the efforts undertaken by France is proof of our concern to inform and explain. Stemming from the dismantlement of the relevant installations, the irreversibility of the decisions made by my country is highly significant, as the expression of our hopes of progress in the field of general and complete disarmament and of the advent of a safer world showing greater solidarity.