HCoC States Signatories Annual Meeting
3 – 4 June 2019
Statement by Ambassador Gerhard Küntzle,
Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Vienna and other International Organizations
Distinguished Colleagues and Friends,
At the outset, allow me to congratulate you, Ambassador Nilsson, for your excellent work as HCoC Chair for 2018 – 2019. Particularly I would like to thank you for providing the opportunity to discuss HCoC matters in a separate informal meeting in January. Germany also welcomes Amb. Andersen of Norway as the new HCoC Chair, and welcomes the expression of interest by Switzerland for the subsequent chairmanship. This shows the European continent’s continuing strong support for the Code.
Germany fully aligns itself with the statement by the European Union and wishes to add the following:
The likely demise of the INF treaty, result of Russia‘s continued non-compliance, will have a negative impact upon European security as it undermines attempts to limit and reduce the role of nuclear-capable delivery systems in European security. At the same time, unchecked ballistic missile programmes in particular in the Middle East or in Asia increasingly pose a threat to international peace and security:
For North Korea, we re-emphasize that only by credibly embarking on the path to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization can North Korea regain the trust of the international community. The North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is in blatant violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. Against this background, we strongly support the US efforts aimed at achieving meaningful progress towards denuclearization. Sanctions pressure was instrumental in bringing North Korea to the negotiating table and must be upheld. As chair of the UNSC 1718 Committee Germany will work hard to make sure that the sanctions adopted by the Security Council are fully and duly implemented.
On Iran, we call on the country to strictly and fully comply with all provisions of UNSCR 2231. We urge Iran to refrain from ballistic missile activities inconsistent with UNSCR 2231 and to cease any transfers of arms, including missile technology, illicit under UNSCR 2231 and other relevant UNSC resolutions.
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. We note with appreciation the renewed interest in the Code against the backdrop of accelerating ballistic missile proliferation around the globe. While its security benefits are clear, Germany also believes that the Code is still far from unfolding its full potential.
One area for improvement are the Pre-Launch Notifications (PLN). At last year’s annual meeting, Germany presented an overview, based on open sources, of the number of starts of ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and scientific rockets in comparison to the PLN communicated via the ICC. The implementation rate for 2017 was 66.9%, and we are pleased to report that – according to our assessment – this figure has increased to 73.1% in 2018. However, unfortunately, a discrepancy between the recorded launches and those pre-notified remains.
In our view, this gap in the implementation rate seems to reflect the lack of a common understanding on which launches should be notified – as we know, the Code does not define the term ‘ballistic missile’. As it stands, it could be interpreted as anything from an ambitious university rocket project to a fully-fledged ICBM. Thus, we have sought to initiate a discussion among Subscribing States in order to arrive at a common understanding, or a working definition, so to speak. Indeed, let me make clear that our initiative was by no means intended to change the text of the Code or render procedures more complicated. While we value the flexibility provided by the Code’s provisions, we remain convinced that a clear and solid basis for the notifying practice in fact contributes to simplicity, reliability and predictability – which truly constitute the very essence of any transparency-building measure.
We welcome the high turnout at the informal expert meeting on 24 January and the valuable exchange of views. Germany recalls that it has also shared a questionnaire as a basis to understanding the possible range of views. We thank the Subscribing States that have replied to our questionnaire on a possible common understanding of a PLN threshold. However, given that we only received 15 answers, we must concede that there is at present no consensus on whether and how we should pursue a common understanding of a PLN threshold. We are happy to share the results with interested countries.
We continue to see added value in arriving at a common understanding by way of an open-ended discussion amongst Subscribing States. Thus, we would like to encourage all Subscribing States to continue reflecting on this issue. Germany stands ready to engage with interested States on PLNs but also in other areas, in which we could make progress towards enhancing the effectiveness of the Code – a vital objective in the interest of us all.
In addition, we encourage those Subscribing States who regularly conduct launches to communicate their respective national approach using their Annual Declarations in order to achieve a minimum of transparency in our notifying practice. In this context, we welcome the clarification from the United States that they are applying a threshold of 500km for their launches.
Universalization is another priority for Germany, and we welcome Togo’s subscription to the Code, bringing the number of Subscribing States to 140. We would like to applaud efforts of the Swedish chair to promote universalization and welcome the work by the Paris-based Fondation de la Récherche Stratégique, funded by the EU.
However, a significant number of States with ballistic missile programmes continue to remain outside of the Code. According to our statistics, they account for 74 launches in 2018 – 29 ballistic missiles and 43 space launch vehicles.
In our view, there is merit to use other international fora such as COPUOS for promoting the Code’s universalization. Some 74% of COPUOS Member States have subscribed to the HCoC, a number of which have nascent space launch programmes.
We are encouraged by the fact that a record number of 171 UN Member States have voted for the HCoC resolution at last year’s First Committee. For pursuing the Code’s universalization, it may be worthwhile to reach out to those 31 States who voted for the resolution but have yet to subscribe to the Code.