4 November 1999
INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE ADVISORY OPINION ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS SUBJECT OF ONE OF NINE DRAFT TEXTS APPROVED IN FIRST COMMITTEE
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of an amendment to the draft resolution on the preservation of and compliance with the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty), by which the Assembly would recall the widespread concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and urge all Member States to support efforts aiming at stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
Introducing the amendment, the representative of France said it was well known that a decision had been taken by certain States to plan for programmes of anti-ballistic national defence. His country was “seriously concerned” by such ballistic proliferation, and was participating in all efforts to combat that tendency, but projects for anti-missile defence were not an appropriate response. Moreover, the risk of ballistic proliferation had not justified calling into question the ABM Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of strategic stability.
The Committee Chairman, RAIMUNDO GONZALES (Chile), said that, concerning the draft resolution on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) (document A/C.1/54/ L.1/Rev.1), an informal amendment from the delegation of France had just come to his attention. Procedurally, verbal amendments could be made to drafts, but for the sake of the “atmosphere” and the substantive results being sought, the Committee should not embark on “procedural skirmishes”. Some delegations who would have to call for instructions from their governments would be in a difficult position. Careful consideration could only be achieved on the basis of official United Nations documentation, with enough time provided for various delegations to consult their capitals.
He said there had been some informal consultations before the meeting, and other delegations had conveyed the same message. He would, therefore, ask the Committee not to take action on the text today, until all required conditions had been made available, which he was told would be on Monday, 8 November.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of the Russian Federation sought clarification on the readiness of the document by the French delegation.
The CHAIRMAN said that the official document would be circulated on Friday morning, and action on it would be taken on Monday. He had merely wished to explain why.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the co-sponsors of the draft were now engaged in active consultations linked to the new aspects, among others, the French amendment. He would ask the Chairman to return to the question of when action would be taken. He would propose a break to discuss the circumstances, or start work today using the plan proposed by the Chairman, leaving aside the question of the draft on the ABM Treaty. In a few minutes, there would be full clarity about when the co-sponsors would be able to take a decision on their draft resolution.
The CHAIRMAN restated that the essence of his proposal was the wish to provide enough time to everyone to apprise themselves of the content of the amendment, which was of great importance. He had taken note of the proposal of the Russian Federation and, if there were no objections, he would proceed to the following drafts.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking on the nuclear weapons category of the text, said he asked for the floor on behalf of the co-sponsors of the draft resolution on the ABM Treaty (document A/C.1/54/L.1/Rev.1). He thanked all delegations for their patience and understanding in connection with the need to take some more time regarding consideration of the draft. He would report that now the co-sponsors were ready for consideration of the draft, and would request the Committee to do so.
The representative of France said he had submitted written amendments to the draft on the ABM Treaty, in conjunction with the timetable laid down by the bureau. He had, indeed, spoken to his Russian and Chinese friends during the course of the morning, and those would very much like the debate, to take place today. Following those consultations, he was not necessarily opposed to convening the debate, if that would speed up the procedure. But, naturally, since the amendments had been distributed only a few minutes ago, no country in the room should feel pressed about the need to request for more time to consult their capitals. It was an important debate on an important subject, and those were important amendments.
The representative of Bolivia said he had clearly understood and agreed with the Chairman’s proposal at the beginning of the discussion on the nuclear weapons cluster that the amendments to the ABM Treaty text be circulated, to enable delegations, such as his own, to have time to consult their capitals. That suggestion should remain in force.
The representative of Mexico said his delegation was confused. As he had understood it, the debate had wound up more than one week ago. It was now time for declarations of a general nature and explanations of vote, but debate was no longer on the menu. When the time came to take action or not on the draft in question, the rules were straightforward: any delegation could ask for a postponement, and if the co-sponsors did not agree to defer, then the draft was pressed to a vote.
The CHAIRMAN said he agreed with the previous two speakers. To restate and clarify his position, with respect to what the Bolivian representative had said, the Chairman’s proposal made at the beginning of the meeting had been designed to protect, to the utmost, the rights of each and every delegation. He had, therefore, understood very clearly the problems that a delegation such as Bolivia might experience, in terms of having to hold consultations, but that position had remained subject to delegations.
Regarding the intervention by the Mexican delegation, he said he could rest assured that only procedural matters could be taken up now, including statements of a general nature on a particular cluster of drafts and explanations of vote. The time for general debate was “well and truly over”, he added. I think that representative had wished to say that he was asking for action.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he understood that, following the issuance of the French amendments in all of the official languages, 24 hours were required. Then, yet another 24 hours were needed before those were voted upon. The Chairman’s first prediction had not come about, because the amendments had already been distributed in all languages, and the Secretariat had demonstrated it could work effectively. He did not know who advised the Chairman about waiting 24 hours before effective colleagues in the Secretariat could distribute two lines in all languages. Secondly, on behalf of the co-sponsors, he would propose that the Chairman invite the delegation of France to introduce the amendments (document A/C.1/54/L.56), and then set the vote for tomorrow.
The CHAIRMAN said he thought the representative of the Russian Federation had provided a good avenue for action. He would ask the representative of France to introduce his amendment.
The representative of France said the vote should take place tomorrow, which would then allow delegations to review the text and consult their capitals, if necessary. It was well known that a decision had been taken by certain States to plan for programmes of anti-ballistic national defence. His country, for its part, was “seriously concerned” by such ballistic proliferation, and was actively participating in all efforts being conducted to combat that tendency, but projects for anti-missile defence of a territory were not an appropriate response.
He said preservation of the ABM Treaty, in light of the strategic imbalances which the Treaty had underlied, was of the utmost importance. The risk of ballistic proliferation did not justify calling into question the ABM Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of strategic stability. For that reason, it was timely for the General Assembly to reaffirm its support for the ABM Treaty. The treatment of that important question by the Assembly required the adoption of a global and balanced approach. It was essential for the Assembly, therefore, to express in one single text its dedication to both the ABM Treaty and the prevention of ballistic proliferation. That was the meaning of the amendments before the Committee.
By the terms of the provisional amendment (document A/C.1/54/L.56), a seventh preambular paragraph would be added, as follows:
“Recalling finally the widespread concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”
After operative paragraph 4, a new paragraph would be added, as follows:
“Urges all Member States to support efforts aiming at stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”