An official website of the United States government

Explanation of Votes in the First Committee on Resolutions L.3 and L.68 / Rev.1
November 7, 2018

Explanation of Votes in the First Committee on Resolutions L.3: “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” and L.68/Rev.1: “Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities”

Remarks by Cynthia Plath
Deputy Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament 
United Nations,
New York City, November 6, 2018

Mr. Chairman,

Although the U.S. delegation voted against these resolutions, our votes in no way detract from our longstanding support for voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) for outer space activities.

The U.S. National Space Strategy seeks to foster conducive international environments through bilateral and multilateral engagements. As part of these efforts to strengthen stability in outer space, the United States will continue to pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space.

We have repeatedly noted in this and other fora that clear, practicable and confirmable TCBMs, implemented on a voluntary basis, have the potential to strengthen the safety, stability, and sustainability of outer space activities for all nations.

In particular, the United States continues to note the importance of the consensus report of the 2013 Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures in Outer Space Activities (A/68/189). We encourage all nations to continue to review and implement, to the greatest extent practicable, the proposed transparency and confidence-building measures contained in the 2013 GGE report, through the relevant national mechanisms, on a voluntary basis and in a manner consistent with their national interests.

The United States also encourages Member States to take advantage of fora like the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Disarmament Commission and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to make real progress on transparency and confidence-building measures. In particular, we call for all spacefaring nations to begin the practical implementation of the 21 guidelines endorsed in June 2018 by the Committee on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

However, our support for voluntary guidelines for the safe and responsible use of space and other transparency and confidence building measures ends when such efforts are tied to proposals for legally-binding space arms control constraints and limitations.

The United States voted “no” on these two resolutions because it believes they make an unacceptable linkage between proposals for voluntary, pragmatic TCBMs and the commencement of futile negotiations a fundamentally flawed arms control proposals. In particular, we note the resolutions’ references to Russia’s and China’s draft treaty proposal introduced in 2014 at the Conference on Disarmament, which the United States opposes. Our most recent critique of their space arms control treaty is in CD/2129 of August 2018.

Mr. Chairman, the United States would prefer that the space domain remain free of conflict. But as Vice President Mike Pence recently noted, “both China and Russia have been aggressively developing and deploying technologies that have transformed space into a warfighting domain.” Therefore, hollow and hypocritical efforts such as PPWT that cannot be confirmed or verified by the international community are not the answer.

Despite this disappointment, the United States will seek to continue to support practical implementation of space TCBMs by Member States and the relevant entities and organizations of the United Nations system. We also will continue to take a leading role in substantive discussions on space TCBMs at the Conference on Disarmament, UN Disarmament Commission and COPUOS.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.