Arms Control and International Security: Thematic Discussion on Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects)

Remarks by Jeffrey L. Eberhardt
UN First Committee
New York City, October 17, 2017

As Delivered

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the First Committee’s Thematic Discussion on Outer Space. The United States remains committed to strengthening the sustainability, stability, and security of space. We are encouraged by the growing international recognition of the security, economic and scientific benefits derived from the use of space for peaceful purposes. How we address these challenges remains an important question for discussion within the UN General Assembly’s First Committee as well as other parts of the United Nations system. In this regard, we note the informative discussion at last week’s joint meeting of the UN First and Fourth Committees on possible challenges to space security and sustainability.

However, we remain very concerned about some countries’ commitment to the development of anti-satellite capabilities to challenge perceived adversaries, while those same countries profess a desire for the “non-weaponization of space” through a political commitment to “no first placement” of weapons in space that the international community cannot confirm. It is clear that these efforts will not enhance stability in space when they fail to address one of the most pressing threats: terrestrially based anti-satellite weapons.

The United States continues to advocate an approach of pursuing bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space. In 2013, the consensus report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on TCBMs in Outer Space Activities concluded “the world’s growing dependence on space-based systems and technologies and the information they provide requires collaborative efforts to address threats to the sustainability and security of outer space activities.” As a member of the GGE since 2013, the United States has co-sponsored with Russia and China UN General Assembly Resolutions 68/50, 69/38, 70/53, and 71/42, as well as this year’s TCBM resolution. These resolutions have encouraged the international community to review and implement, to the greatest extent practicable, the GGE report’s recommendations. The United States is pleased to note that formal and informal discussions of the GGE report’s recommendations have been held in three UN bodies: the Conference on Disarmament, the Disarmament Commission (UNDC), and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. We hope to see the UNDC add this topic as an agenda item to its 2018-2020 agenda soon.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to conclude by reiterating that the growing dependence of all nations on space-based systems and the information they provide necessitates collaborative efforts to enhance stability and address real threats to the right of nations to use outer space for peaceful purposes. The international community should consider voluntary, near-term measures that will help sustain the outer space environment for future generations, rather than by continuing to engage in pointless and hypocritical posturing that fails to address the international community’s actual concerns.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.