Nuclear desarmament

Friday, 13 November 1998

Mrs. Bourgois (France) (interpretation from French): France is pleased to have been able to vote again this year, as it did on similar draft resolutions in 1997, 1996 and 1995, in favour of draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.42/Rev.1, introduced by Japan, "Nuclear disarmament with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons". My country fully endorses this text, which reflects our position on and our commitment to non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

However, we regret the absence, for the first time, of any reference to unilateral efforts. This seems to reflect a failure to comprehend the scope and ambition of the measures announced by head of State of France in 1996. The disappearance of the land component of the nuclear force, the closure and dismantling of the nuclear research centre in Mururoa and the closure and dismantling of factories producing fissile materials for nuclear-weapon use are major decisions on the path towards the implementation of our commitments under article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Their implementation requires considerable financial means and complex technical measures, which are being pursued over several years. The centre in Mururoa is closed and will be dismantled at the end of 1998. Dismantling of the ground-to-ground missiles on the Albion plateau and of the Hades missiles finished this year. Operations to close definitively the two fissile material installations, Pierrelatte and Marcoule, operations that are lengthy and costly, but irreversible, have begun.

The lack of any reference to that disarmament programme, which is being relentlessly pursued, seems to result from ignorance of the facts. It is true that we are living in a world in which the present reigns supreme and one piece of news quickly replaces another. But those of us who work in the long term cannot bow to the rules that govern the world of the media. Why disregard an effort whose announcement, it is true, was made two years ago, but whose implementation will of necessity take several years? If we are seeking new facts, why forget that the closing of Mururoa will have taken place by the end of this year and ignore the fact that France will be the only country with such facilities to get rid of them?

Another element in the draft resolution introduced by Japan requires clarification by my country. Paragraph 4 refers to "efforts by the five nuclear-weapon States to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally and through their negotiations". France recognizes the magnitude of the efforts made by the States with the largest nuclear arsenals, and we welcome them, as proved by our support for the bilateral draft resolution. However, we note that the course taken by those two States is specific on the one hand, because of the very large numbers involved, despite the importance of their commitments to reductions, and, on the other, because of the technical choices made, which in particular have so far excluded the dismantling of nuclear warheads. Finally, START II has not yet been ratified, and consequently the timetable for implementing the reductions decided upon is uncertain. In other words, as far as France is concerned, the reference to negotiations contained in the fifth subparagraph of paragraph 4 has to do with the process going on between the United States of America and Russia. My country reserves the right to assess whether and when efforts being made globally to eliminate nuclear weapons justify preferring a course other than the unilateral initiative that we have resolutely undertaken.