The 2005 NPT Review Conference: A French Perspective

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte

For France, the 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will need first and foremost to confirm the credibility of the NPT as one of the main elements of international peace and security and to demonstrate the efficiency of the review process against a backdrop of pressing challenges.

States-parties will have to restate that the goal of nuclear nonproliferation as established by the treaty remains their priority. We expect them to come up with proposals to solve the problems the NPT faces while respecting a balanced review of the three pillars of the treaty: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses for nuclear energy.

A number of ideas put forward this past year by France, other countries, and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei will surely be considered in the course of the conference. These include proposals on noncompliance, controls over sensitive nuclear technologies, assurances of access to nuclear fuel, suspension of nuclear cooperation with countries violating their commitments, and withdrawal from the NPT. France will also pay great attention to the preservation of cooperation on peaceful uses. The role of nuclear energy for sustainable development should be highlighted in this context.

Important efforts by nuclear-weapon states in the field of nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War should also be underlined. Since its accession in 1992 and in response to an international situation characterized by the end of the Cold War and undeniable progress toward complete and general disarmament, France has made a series of major decisions aimed at implementing Article VI of the NPT, which calls for it and the four other nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and China) to make “good faith” efforts toward nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

All told, since 1990, France has halved the number of nuclear delivery vehicles in its force, and the number of nuclear weapons systems is down from six to two. The share of nuclear forces in total French defence spending has dropped from 17 percent in 1990 to less than 9.5 percent in 2004. These numbers show that France has followed its declared doctrine of “strict sufficiency” in shaping its deterrent force, a key pillar of its security.

France is currently implementing the decisions it has made in the field of nuclear disarmament, such as dismantling the Pierrelatte and Marcoule facilities for producing fissile materials for nuclear weapons. France is alone among the nuclear powers in undertaking this long, complex, and costly process.

France has also adopted several measures from the guidelines outlined in the program of action after the 1995 review conference. That program’s three points were: conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT); and a determination to press forward systematically and progressively toward the reduction of nuclear weapons as a whole and to work for general and complete disarmament.

France signed and ratified the CTBT and has taken steps to carry out all of its requirements even before the treaty has entered into force. Most importantly, France no longer has nuclear testing facilities. France is well aware, however, that the CTBT has still not entered into force and that hence the states-parties to the NPT have not yet fulfilled the spirit of Point One in the 1995 Program of Action. As a member of the European Union, France supports the Common Position of the Council (European Union Council of Ministers) on the universalization and reinforcement of multilateral agreements in the field of nonproliferation. The French government is also contributing actively to the work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission.

France also supports launching negotiations on an FMCT at the Conference on Disarmament, but this effort in Geneva is stalled. As mentioned before, France no longer has facilities for the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

France supports the ongoing efforts to bring about a global reduction in nuclear arsenals. Most prominent among these are the efforts of the United States and Russia, notably through the implementation of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The number of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of these two countries is out of all proportion to the other nuclear-weapon states. Where operationally deployed strategic offensive nuclear weapons are concerned, their reduction to 2,200 or even fewer warheads between now and 2012 will represent an unprecedented step in its scope.

Moreover, France is participating in concrete actions beyond its borders. In particular, it is committed to contribute to Russia’s plutonium disposition program, within the framework of an agreement now being negotiated within the Multilateral Plutonium Disposition Group. This agreement will augment a 2000 agreement between the United States and Russia in which each country agreed to dispose or convert to civilian use 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. This project is being undertaken within the framework of the Global Partnership of the Group of Eight, to which France has pledged to contribute 750 million euros.

Pursuant to Article VI of the NPT, France is also working for general and complete disarmament. It is active in all areas of disarmament. It is a party to the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines and to several agreements in the conventional sphere. France adhered to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. France is making constant efforts to secure the implementation, universalization, and strengthening of these instruments.
One other important path to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation lies in the regional approach, through peace efforts in South Asia and in the Middle East and, where regional conditions permit, through nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Lastly, France has given negative security assurances to more than 100 countries in treaty form. It has also given negative security assurances to all NPT states-parties through a declaration on April 6, 1995. This commitment is consistent with the right of legitimate self-defense as recognized in Article 51 of the UN Charter. States that violate their nonproliferation commitments cannot claim protection under these assurances.

One must also underline the role of positive security assurances that, in the same ways as negative security assurances, provide a guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons to those non-nuclear-weapon states that respect their obligations.

Since its accession to the NPT in the early 1990s, France has fulfilled its commitments in good faith, through a series of gestures whose scale is well known to all NPT states-parties. Our efforts have been made in response to the strategic situation; to the threats to our country, Europe, and our allies; and to the progress in general toward complete disarmament and in the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Yet, we know now that, over the same period, certain states have engaged in clandestine nuclear programs. NPT states-parties all placed their confidence in collective security and respect for nonproliferation commitments by other states-parties. The revelations of recent months about nuclear proliferation crises and the networks supplying them have made clear the extent of the threat to the security of each one of us presented by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We all understand the prime challenges facing the NPT today if it is to remain a credible instrument in preserving world peace and security. Although efforts to implement the various aspects of Article VI continue, it is imperative to restore confidence in the NPT’s equilibria.

Given the current context of proliferation crises, success at the 2005 NPT Review Conference will rest on the quality of debates, demonstrating that the review process can adequately address the challenges to the NPT, and on the ability of the conference to agree on substantive measures to answer these challenges.

France wishes to participate in a serious, rigorous, and balanced review process of the implementation of the treaty. Achieving consensus on documents is important in this regard, and we hope we will be able to reach in 2005 a result acceptable to all.


France on Key Nuclear Issues

Nuclear Warhead Arsenal: Approximately 350 warheads total.

Latest Nuclear Force Developments: France decided in 1996 to eliminate the land-based component of its nuclear triad. Paris is currently moving toward replacing its submarine-launched ballistic missile with a new model.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signed September 24, 1996. Ratified April 6, 1998. France dismantled its nuclear testing center by July 1998.

Fissile Material Production for Weapons: French President Jacques Chirac declared in February 1996 that France no longer produces fissile material for nuclear weapons. He also pledged that France would dismantle its fissile material production facilities for arms. France publicly supports negotiation of an “effectively verifiable” fissile material cutoff treaty, although it reportedly may be receptive to a recent U.S. proposal on concluding an agreement without a verification regime.

Nuclear Use Doctrine: In May 2000, France reaffirmed its 1995 pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Paris does not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons.


Sources: Arms Control Association, Institute for Science and International Security, Natural Resources Defense Council, and national governments.

France's Nuclear Disarmament Actions

September 1991:
Announcement of the early phasing out of Pluton tactical surface-to-surface missiles and AN-52 gravity bombs

August 1992:
France ratifies the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

November 1992:
Cessation of production of plutonium for nuclear weapons

January 1996:
Final nuclear test

February 1996:
Announcement of the closing of the Pierrelatte and Marcoule facilities for the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and of the Pacific test site; announcement of reduction in the number of ballistic missile nuclear submarines from five to four; announcement of the end of the Mirage IV’s nuclear mission; announcement of the abandonment of the surface-to-surface component of the nuclear forces through the standing down and destruction of the Hadès and S3D surface-to-surface missiles

June 1996:
Cessation of production of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons

September 1996:
Signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ratified in April 1998

September 1997:
Announcement that no part of its nuclear deterrent forces was aimed at a particular target

April 2003:
Ratification of an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte is France’s ambassador to the United States. He has also served as France’s permanent representative to the United Nations and President Jacques Chirac’s senior diplomatic adviser.