Prevention of an arms race in outer space

Thursday, 29 Ocber 1998

Ms. Bourgois (France) (interpretation from French): The statement I am going to deliver was in fact intended to respond to the Egyptian delegation’s introduction of the draft resolution on outer space. The great variety of approaches in dealing with our subject matter makes dialogue a little more difficult, but nevertheless I wish to state my country’s position on a matter that is really very important. At the outset of the session of the Conference on Disarmament in January 1998, I pointed out that my country attributed special importance to the fact that the Geneva forum deals with three subjects: the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, the banning of anti-personnel landmines and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

On 26 March 1998 the Conference decided to entrust a special coordinator with the task of exploring the possibility of creating an ad hoc committee in this regard. Nobody will be surprised in the circumstances that my delegation is coming back today to this item under agenda item 70. France’s interest in this matter is not new. We presented specific proposals at the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, in 1978. Some of them were subsequently retained. This interest then emerged on several occasions at the Conference on Disarmament, and guidelines for reflection were put forward, mainly in 1993. Very recently I have been able to note the renewed interest of many delegations in this subject, and recent developments in the international situation make us want to think about ways to avoid an aggressive — I repeat, aggressive — militarization of space, which could be a source of danger to the international community and the geostrategic balance.

Very recently, the North Korean launch on 31 August 1998, carried out without prior notification and seen initially as a missile test before being officially announced as a civilian satellite launching, showed the relevance of the proposal for a multilateral notification regime for rocket and missile launching, which France had presented in Geneva in March 1993. My delegation is well aware that this problem is vast and complex. There is no question of tackling the entire matter all at once. But it seems strange to me that the international community should disregard a problem that is so crucial and that it should not at least be able to initiate a long-term reflection on this matter. The matter is sufficiently topical and important to call for reflection on subjects that could meet with consensus and that we should define together.

That is why my delegation wishes to express its positive commitment to this issue of outer space by voting in favour of the present draft resolution rather than abstaining, as we did in the voting on the draft resolution submitted in 1997 by Sri Lanka, which was adopted as resolution 52/37.