Nuclear desarmament - Explanation of vote
Response to the sponsors of the "nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere" initiative

4 November 1998

 Mr. Richier (France) (interpretation from French): I am speaking on behalf of France, the United Kingdom and the United States to explain our position on draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.37, entitled "Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas". Our three delegations voted against this draft resolution because, despite our regular consultations and work with the sponsors, it still does not adequately address our main concern and still contains a fundamental ambiguity. Let me explain why.

We remain concerned that the thrust of the draft resolution is to prepare the ground for the establishment of the southern hemisphere as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Since all land territory in the southern hemisphere, with the exception of a few small islands, is already covered by nuclear-weapon-free zones, the only new areas that such a zone could cover would be the high seas. Many delegations assert that this is not the intention of the draft resolution and point out that it makes reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But if the new zone will not cover the high seas, then what will it add to the existing zones? Thus we can only conclude that the true aim of some sponsors is indeed to create a new zone that covers international waters. Such a step would be inconsistent with international law and unacceptable to all delegations that respect the law of the sea.

Despite that and other, lesser problems, we acknowledge that the sponsors of draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.37 made some useful improvements to this year’s text, although these changes were still not enough to overcome our general concern about the purpose of the draft resolution. We hope that next year the sponsors will be able to offer a text that satisfies all of us. We stand ready to continue to work with them with to that end.

I wish to emphasize that our vote on this draft resolution should in no way call into question our firm commitment to the Treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, Pelindaba and the Antarctic, nor do we have any objections in principle to the establishment of new nuclear-weapon-free zones, which can make an important contribution to both regional and global security provided they are supported by all States in the region concerned and are embodied in appropriate treaties that include provisions for full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.