Nuclear disarmament cannot be declared, it must be built [fr]
2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) - Statement by Mr Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament - Main Committee I - "Nuclear disarmament and security assurances" - 1 May 2015
I would first like to extend my congratulations on your accession to the Chairmanship of this Committee and I wish you every success.
I fully support the declaration made by the European Union.
France’s commitment to disarmament was solemnly recalled by the President of the French Republic, Mr François Hollande, in the speech on French nuclear deterrence he delivered in Istres last 19 February. France shares the objective of a world without nuclear weapons, when the strategic context so allows.
But nuclear disarmament cannot be declared - it must be built. It can only be reached through a series of concrete measures, step by step. France is well aware that some parties are impatient, considering that disarmament is not being achieved as quickly or as fully as it should. And yet impressive progress has indeed been made in the last 20 years: arsenals reduced by over three-quarters, tests ceased throughout the P5.
Approaches which fail to take into account the strategic context will not help us to make progress. The NPT approach is pragmatic: nuclear disarmament, under Article VI, falls in the context of general and complete disarmament. It fully takes into account the strategic context.
The action plan adopted by consensus in 2010 provides us with an ambitious and long-term roadmap. We must continue and strengthen this roadmap step by step, without deviating from the chosen path.
France is fully aware of its commitments under Article VI. France is working towards disarmament and has taken measures which are exemplary because irreversible.
France has dismantled its nuclear test site. The process is complete and it is irreversible. It has also dismantled its fissile-material production facilities. This is already irreversible, although the programme will take many more years, with an estimated cost of over 8 billion euros. This is a significant effort. France has also completely dismantled the ground-to-ground component of its nuclear deterrence. It has reduced its submarine and air components by a third. These are major decisions, which require constant effort, time and money to implement. I must once again stress that nuclear disarmament has been a daily reality in France for the past two decades.
France has adopted a responsible, restricted nuclear doctrine based on the principle of strict sufficiency; France maintains its arsenal at the lowest possible level compatible with the strategic context. France is fully aware of the serious consequences of nuclear weapons and thus categorically rules out using nuclear weapons as battlefield weapons. French nuclear deterrence is thus purely defensive and strictly limited to defending its vital interests under extreme circumstances of self-defence, a right recognized by the Charter of the United Nations. French nuclear deterrence is in full compliance with international law.
France is well aware of the expectations of the non-nuclear-weapon States. Their hopes of security assurances are legitimate, as the President of the French Republic highlighted on 19 February. He reiterated, for the first time at his level, the security assurances provided at the Conference on Disarmament in 1995, of which the Security Council took note in its Resolution 984. France considers itself to be bound by the terms of these declarations.
France has also taken collective action, with its P5 partners. Together, we have set up a regular consultation process to build trust. Within this framework, France will host the next P5 Conference. Together, we have also drafted reports on implementing the 2010 action plan according to a common plan, defined by a working group chaired by France. Together, we have made progress on the issue of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Last year, in this very place, we signed the Protocol to the Treaty creating such a zone in Central Asia. France was the first State to ratify it. We hope the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone will be signed as soon as possible. Naturally, France supports the objective of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
We must go further. We must continue to move forward to implement the roadmap set out in 2010.
To do so, it is essential to strengthen trust and transparency. France has set an example. On 19 February, President Hollande announced new transparency measures. He gave unprecedented figures on the composition of the French arsenal: 3 sets of 16 submarine-borne missiles; 54 air-to-ground missiles. He also announced that French arsenal would open up further dismantled or converted nuclear military sites to the international community. On 16 April, I had the pleasure of giving some of you a tour of the Luxeuil air base and its former weapons storage facilities, to observe the site’s conversion for conventional purposes. The opportunity was given to observe the rigorous security conditions under which the nuclear weapons were once stored, under a double control chain. The visitors will have seen for themselves that there is no risk of the weapons being used non-intentionally. In a few weeks, I will take a delegation on a tour of the former nuclear site at the Plateau d’Albion. France calls upon all nuclear-weapon States to make the same effort of transparency for all the categories of nuclear weapons.
We must also take collective action through multilateral nuclear disarmament.
The entry into force of the CTBT is our priority and is long overdue. At present, there is no good argument to keep postponing it: the Treaty’s verification regime has proved its worth; waiting for the ratification of others is not a better justification for inaction.
The other priority is to immediately start negotiations on a FMCT . The CTBT enabled a qualitative limit to the development of nuclear weapons to be set; now we must set a quantitative limit. Everyone can understand that you must turn off the tap before you start emptying the swimming pool. Everybody can understand the benefit of a universal and verifiable treaty, compared to certain voluntary moratoriums.
France welcomes the success of the GGE discussions on the FMCT, which on 2 April under the Canadian Chairmanship managed to adopt a consensus report. Never before have we made such substantive progress. Once the concrete measures were examined in detail, overcoming differences seemed possible to all, regardless of their sensibilities. In June 2014, the Conference on Disarmament held its most constructive discussions ever on the FMCT.
France wants to sustain this process; it wants to build on the GGE’s success. Therefore, at the Conference on Disarmament on 9 April, France formally submitted a draft FMCT. It is an ambitious, realistic and verifiable project which sets out irreversible measures.
We must begin these negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament right away. This is the next logical step in multilateral disarmament.
Through its three pillars, the NPT enables us to make progress because we are united. Step by step, we must continue along the path chosen in 2010 and maintain this spirit of consensus to move together towards a safer world.