France Foreign Minister Le Drian addresses the Security Council on North Korea [fr]
Statement by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs
Security Council - 27 September 2018
North Korea continues to represent the most serious proliferation crisis that the international community has had to deal with in the early years of the twenty-first century. It is a major challenge to our collective security, and I would like to thank Secretary of State Michael Pompeo for organizing today’s meeting.
What is the situation? The process that has been launched between South Korea and North Korea, on the one hand, and between the United States and North Korea, on the other, has helped to reduce the tensions in the Korean peninsula since the beginning of this year. The Singapore summit, initiated by the United States, was an important event in that regard, and we should certainly welcome it, especially in the light of the mistrust that prevailed throughout 2017. We have taken note of the commitments made by North Korea on 19 September in the Pyongyang Declaration aimed at easing tensions and bringing about a rapprochement between the two Koreas. In that regard, I welcome the diplomatic efforts of President Moon, which were also on view again at last week’s inter-Korean summit.
However, we must not lose sight of the fact that as long as North Korea has not given up its nuclear and ballistic programmes, they will continue to pose a threat to the region and the whole world. The Council’s priority should be to induce North Korea to display a significant willingness to retreat from its ambition to build an operational nuclear arsenal and to make concrete moves in that direction. As a matter of fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency recently pointed out that North Korea had continued its nuclear activities in the past few months, as did the United Nations Panel of Experts assisting the Committee pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006). We should also highlight the fact that North Korea has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and continues to maintain military chemical and biological capabilities. The investigation conducted following the death of Kim Jong-nam in February 2017 in Kuala Lumpur established links with North Korea.
As a result, and despite the welcome reduction in tensions, the situation remains a threat to international security. As long as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programmes continue to exist, any incident is capable of provoking an escalation. Furthermore, while this programme continues, there is always a risk of secondary proliferation from North Korea to other countries, and even to non-State entities, which will persist until North Korea’s arsenal has been eliminated and its nuclear and ballistic experts have been converted back to civilian sectors.
The Council’s task must be to keep up the pressure so that this time North Korea keeps to its commitments.
For the process to be successful, it must be based on concrete measures, and North Korea must demonstrate a genuine willingness to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic programmes in a comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible manner in line with Council resolutions. We expect it to go above and beyond what are admittedly symbolic and reversible gestures, such as announcing the destruction of its nuclear test site. In that regard, the International Atomic Energy Agency will certainly have an important role to play, for which it is actively preparing. Experts from the nuclear-weapon States should be at the forefront in verifying the most highly sensitive activities. France will be ready to assist when the time comes. A first concrete step could be making a complete and accurate inventory of North Korea’s
nuclear and ballistic programme.
How should we approach this? First and foremost, we should support the existing dialogue, because it is vital to restoring confidence and making progress towards denuclearization. At the same time, we must collectively maintain a firm policy with regard to North Korea by rigorously applying the Security Council sanctions. Sanctions are not an end in themselves but rather a strategy for applying pressure in the pursuit of a political solution. I think that the Security Council must remain united on the fact that the sanctions remain essential. We should continue to be particularly vigilant in ensuring that we all respect our obligations under international law. In that regard, I commend the remarkable work done by the Panel of Experts and the Sanctions Committee, both of which are essential tools for verifying the effective application of sanctions, and here I want to highlight the importance we attach to the independence and impartiality of the work of the Panel of Experts.
As several previous speakers have already mentioned, we must combat the strategies deployed by North Korea to circumvent the sanctions through various illicit activities ranging from money-laundering to ocean trans-shipment operations of oil and coal. President Kim Jong Un says that he wants denuclearization, and he has asked us not to doubt his intentions. For our part, we will judge him by his actions, and we call for a united and determined response from the international community that respects the decisions of the Council. The credibility and sustainability of our collective security architecture — and of non-proliferation in particular — are at stake. That is the path that France wishes to see the Council take here.