§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
The United Kingdom subscribed to the International Code of Conduct (ICOC) against Ballistic Missiles at its launch in The Hague on 25 November. I represented HMG at the launch.
The ICOC is a politically binding agreement designed to tackle the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. It does so by promoting transparency and confidence building among States. It consists of principles, commitments and confidence-building measures. It will establish international norms for the first time in the area of ballistic missiles. The Code will complement the existing range of international instruments against WMD.
The non-proliferation commitments in the Code include a commitment not to contribute to, support or assist any ballistic missile programme in countries which might be developing or acquiring weapons of mass destruction in contravention of international obligations. Also to exercise vigilance in assistance to Space Launch Vehicle programmes, given that these can be used to conceal ballistic missile programmes. The Code also calls for maximum possible restraint in the development, testing and deployment of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
The confidence-building and transparency measures are designed to promote confidence through information sharing, in the form of both pre-launch notifications and annual declarations about ballistic missile and space launch programmes. The aim is to boost confidence for instance that space launch vehicle programmes are not being used as cover for ballistic missile programmes.
The Code represents a significant step forward for the international community in the area of arms control—in this case the control of one of the delivery systems of choice for weapons of mass destruction. The UK has played a leading role in the development of the ICOC since its inception. We are calling on all States to subscribe to the Code.