Statement at Informal Meeting of HCoC States Signatories (The Hague Code of Conduct)


HCoC Informal Meeting States Signatories

24 January 2019

Statement by Ambassador Gerhard Küntzle,

Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Vienna and other International Organizations

Ambassador Nilsson,
Mr. Gerschner,
Distinguished Colleagues and Friends,

At the outset, allow me to thank you, Ambassador Nilsson, for your initiative to conduct an informal meeting of HCoC Subscribing States in-between the annual meetings, which is warmly welcome and will surely prove extremely useful.

Let me add my gratitude to Austria for serving as the Immediate Central Point of Contact (ICC), in particular to Mr. Gerschner and his team for their diligent work – you are the heart that fills the HCoC with life.

Madam Chair,

We all are aware of the dramatic developments threatening the INF Treaty, which not only German Foreign Minister Maas regards as „a key element of European security“. At the same time, unchecked ballistic missile programmes in particular in the Middle East – Iran – or in Asia – North Korea – continue to pose a threat to international peace and security.

Apart from the export control regimes, the HCoC remains the only multilateral instrument to address the proliferation of ballistic missiles and build trust and confidence amongst Subscribing States. For a number of reasons though, the Code is far from providing the security benefits it could.

One of the Code’s shortcomings – one which we do not want to broach today - is its limited scope: weapons of mass destruction can be delivered through an increasing option of other means of delivery, such as cruise missile, hypersonic missiles or UAVs.

But even with regards to building transparency on ballistic missiles, the HCoC remains an underperformer when it comes to the Pre-Launch Notifications. This is the issue we wish to discuss with you today.

At last year’s annual meeting, Germany presented its annual overview, based purely on open sources, of the number of starts of Ballistic Missiles, Space Launch Vehicles and Scientific Rockets in comparison to the Pre-launch Notifications (PLN) communicated via the ICC.

As explained, the overall PLN rate had dropped from around 73% in 2016 to 65% in 2017. Our expert Mr Peter Jonas will shortly present the preliminary figures for 2018.

As we assume that all fellow Subscribing States implement the Code in good faith and with maximum diligence, the only explanation for the disparity between reported launches and open-source information are differences in understanding of which launches should be notified. This, in turn, is due to the fact that the Code lacks even the most rudimentary definition to that end.

In practice, this leads to an „à-la-carte approach“ to implementation that in our view is highly detrimental to any multilateral approach for creating transparency. Through the working paper presented at the last annual meeting, we have therefore suggested a threshold of 100 km altitude, but are open to discussing other approaches. We also advocate for a common understanding on including scientific rockets and both components of anti-ballistic missile tests.

Let me be clear: We do not wish to seek any modification to the code or complicate its implementation; our ideal outcome of this discussion is simply an understanding - as broad as possible - on a simple certain basic criteria such as range.

With your permission, Madam Chair, I would now like to invite Mr Peter Jonas from the Bundeswehr Verification Center to give a technical presentation to underpin our initiative.

Afterwards, we would be eager to hear views of fellow States: do you agree with the need for a common understanding and if so, would you prefer the MTCR’s 300 km limit, or perhaps include a minimum payload?

On the basis of today’s discussion, Germany will also be circulating a questionnaire to Subscribing States, outlining different options. We hope to continue our fruitful discussions on this issue at the Annual Meeting in June.

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