Thematic Discussion on Outer Space – UNFC October 2023
Statement by the United States as Delivered by Ambassador Bruce Turner
The United States is committed to strengthening efforts to ensure that outer space remains a safe, stable, secure, and sustainable domain.
Since our last meeting, there have been a number of positive developments in our work which, taken together, show that the international community can overcome our longstanding deadlock on outer space security issues.
Starting with the overwhelming support at the UN General Assembly last year for the resolution against conducting destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing, Member States have signaled strong support in this body for new initiatives to address pressing threats to outer space environment and security. I want to thank the 36 countries that have so far joined the United States in making these national commitments, and we encourage other countries to do the same. This is the best way to ensure that this proposal will become an internationally recognized norm of behavior and help us address this pressing threat. We also reaffirm that the equal, full, and effective participation of women and marginalized groups in discussions on these threats is one of the essential factors for the promotion and attainment of sustainable peace and security.
Second, we were delighted that States reached consensus on Outer Space Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) at the most recent meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission. Despite all the challenges in the UN disarmament machinery, this success demonstrates there are areas where we can achieve progress when the conditions and issues are right and reinforces the value of these multilateral discussions.
Finally, the recently concluded Open-Ended Working Group on norms, rules and principles of responsible behavior proved to be a fresh, innovative forum for discussing space security issues that was welcomed by an overwhelming number of Member States. While one country’s objections and obstructionism prevented the group from achieving consensus on a final report, it was clear a vast majority of States found these inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive discussions to be beneficial. We were also glad to see the Chair’s Summary reflect this sentiment.
The United States believes we must continue to build on this positive progress. To do so, States should focus on approaches that are comprehensive and follow the Secretary General’s recommendation in his 2022 Report on Further Practical Measures, which calls for the pursuit of voluntary commitments such as voluntary norms of responsible behavior and transparency and confidence building measures, and concepts and proposals for new legally binding instruments.
This is why the United States supports Resolution L.15, which would create a new Open-Ended Working Group to carry forward the recently concluded process. This approach has garnered widespread support from Member States across all global regions precisely because of its inclusivity on all issues. As clearly noted in the draft, this includes norms that contribute to legally binding instruments.
Unfortunately, this body is also being asked to support a divisive, duplicative new Open-Ended Working Group that is narrowly focused and cannot achieve consensus. The proposed resolution L.55 on “Further Practical Measures,” with its paragraph proposing a parallel process, will not provide the international community with a path forward towards tangible results. It focuses on a one-track approach to address the prevention of an arms race in outer space and leaves out the important ideas of TCBMs, norms, rules, and principles, which can develop and build confidence, and help build consensus on concepts that could be included in future legally binding instruments. We urge others Member States to vote against this resolution, or at a minimum OP8 which calls for a new OEWG.
The United States also does not support Resolution L.53 on “No First Placement.” Among its many flaws, the NFP resolution’s inadequate crafting of what constitutes a “weapon in outer space” risks unduly or unfairly constraining promising dual-use technologies that could help sustain the outer space environment.
To be clear, it is the UK resolution on Reducing Space Threats that is flexible, comprehensive, inclusive, and reflective of significant investments of Member States’ time and feedback. This is the only resolution that can take forward the well-regarded foundational work of the OEWG that just concluded. I encourage all colleagues to support it as a proven path forward on these important space security matters.
If the past year of multilateral engagement on these issues has shown us anything, it is that States can have a robust discussion on norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviors that can reduce threats to the space domain and meaningfully promote the safety, stability, sustainability and security of outer space. There is no turning back. We look forward to continuing with all delegations this essential work.
Thank you, Chair.