The Treaty on Non-Proliferation remains the cornerstone of global strategic stability [fr]

Non-proliferation and Non-proliferation Treaty
Statement by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Security Council - 1 April 2019

(UN translation)

At the outset, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for having taken the initiative to convene this important debate. I would also like to thank Mrs. Nakamitsu and Mr. Amano for their very enlightening briefings at the beginning of our meeting.

As the international security environment continues to deteriorate and the nuclear threat is making a forceful reappearance, it is crucial to preserve the integrity of existing non-proliferation norms and to consolidate a multilateral, rules-based order. As President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron recalled in this Chamber last September (see S/PV.8362), it is important to reaffirm unambiguously the essential nature of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) for international security. The NPT remains the cornerstone of global strategic stability. It represents an irreplaceable bulwark against the risk of nuclear proliferation. Fifty years after its signing, the Treaty is an undeniable success for three reasons.

First, since 1968 the NPT has led a number of States in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific to abandon their nuclear weapons. Only a few States have developed arsenals outside the NPT. Secondly, the NPT has enabled the peaceful development of nuclear energy under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Today, nuclear energy is an important source of low-carbon electricity for some 50 States. Non-energy applications of nuclear technology are even more widespread. Finally, the NPT has led to drastic reductions — on the order of 80 per cent — in nuclear arsenals from the levels seen during the Cold War.

That success has not been achieved without crises along the way. Clandestine nuclear facilities and activities, which were not declared to the IAEA, were discovered first in Iraq and then in North Korea, Libya, Iran and Syria. Non-state clandestine networks, in particular the Abdul Qadeer Khan Network, played an important role in that series of crises. The involvement of the Security Council, the perseverance of its members, the determination of everyone and the work of the IAEA made it possible to overcome them, with the notable exception of that of North Korea, despite the recent decrease in tensions. In most cases, those results were achieved diplomatically. The NPT has survived despite that succession of shocks because its States parties have remained determined to preserve it.

Accordingly, despite a risky environment, safeguarding the NPT is more essential than ever. It is more essential than ever because the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery has not disappeared. It is essential because the reduction in the American and Russian arsenals, by far the most massive, remains in place. The expectation for nuclear disarmament remains high in international opinion, which has led some to favour an exclusively declaratory approach by seeking a ban on nuclear weapons, while disarmament cannot be decreed. Only concrete actions count. Finally, safeguarding the NPT is essential because energy needs are constantly increasing all over the world and the fight against carbon dioxide (CO²) emissions also involves nuclear energy, which has made it possible for France, for example, to be below the world average for carbon dioxide CO² production per capita.

How, then, can we consolidate the NPT, and what should our collective road map be? Above all, the balance of the three pillars of the NPT must be respected. As mentioned by several speakers, it is a legitimate expectation of everyone. First, we must adopt a firm and united response to nuclear proliferation, with the highest priority necessarily being resolving the North Korean crisis. The North Korean nuclear and ballistic threat remains intolerable. NPT States parties must make clear their expectations of North Korea. The latter must implement the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic programmes in accordance with the resolutions of the Council. At that point, the sanctions can be lifted.

With regard to Iran, our objective in the nuclear field is twofold: preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and come to an agreement on how to oversee Iran’s nuclear programme for the long term. There is no way we will accept Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. I would add that agreement will have to be reached to reduce the threat of Iran’s missile programme, which is only growing despite the Security Council’s calls.

Beyond crises, we will continue to rely on the IAEA. France hopes that States that have not yet done so will be able to accede to the additional protocol. And because the threat of nuclear or radiological terrorism is real, all measures in support of resolution 1540 (2004) must be strengthened.

Moreover, for the future, we must promote progressive nuclear disarmament. The NPT was conceived 50 years ago when the role of nuclear deterrence was recognized — a role that remains in several regions of the world. Yet France wants all States to commit themselves to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, with undiminished security for all. That is also consistent with the goal of general and complete disarmament set out in article VI of the Treaty.

Accordingly, in terms of concrete actions, we can propose several. First, the United States and Russia, which still hold nearly 90 per cent of the nuclear arsenals, must continue their concerted efforts to reduce them. Secondly, the negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament of a treaty banning the production of fissile material is essential to exclude the risk of a resumption of the arms race. It is an essential step on the road to a world without nuclear weapons. Thirdly, the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty remains essential. It is the necessary key to preventing new weapons from being designed. We call on all the States concerned to sign and ratify this instrument and to support the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Fourthly, work on the verification of nuclear disarmament is also important for confidence-building, and it is worth extending. Fifthly, the reduction of strategic risks associated with nuclear weapons is based on the transparency of nuclear doctrines, dialogue between political and military leaders, crisis communication instruments and reassurance measures. Much has been done since the birth of deterrence; those efforts must continue.

In conclusion, let me say a few words on civil nuclear power, which must be pursued in the best conditions of safety and security. Through numerous partnerships, France supports countries that wish to embark on this path or develop it. France’s voluntary contribution to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Fund will be maintained in this regard.

As Council members will have understood, France will continue to work to ensure that the main equilibrium of our nuclear non-proliferation system is maintained and that we are able to strengthen it with new binding measures. We are at the disposal of all those who wish to embark on this path in good faith.

Dernière modification : 09/04/2019

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