Explanation of Vote – UNFC October 2023
Cluster 3 – Outer Space
The United States has the honor to deliver this Explanation of Vote on behalf of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom on draft resolution L.55, “Further Practical Measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.” We will vote no and urge all delegations to do likewise.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and France have consistently engaged constructively and pragmatically with other UN Member States in order to strengthen the safety, stability, security, and sustainability of outer space activities and to prevent an arms race in outer space. The safety and security of the outer space environment is an issue that will impact all countries and we have a shared responsibility to work together to address dangerous and destabilizing behaviors that may potentially lead to conflict. We believe our common goal of achieving progress in preventing an arms race in outer space in all its aspects can be best and most quickly achieved by reducing the threats, or perceived threats, to space activities. This is why we have led efforts at the United Nations to create pragmatic and effective initiatives to discuss current security threats in outer space and approaches to mitigate them, including L.15 this year establishing an open-ended working group (OEWG) on Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours, to build upon the progress made during the last working group.
Conversely, we have repeatedly seen Russia, the principal author of L.55, impeding productive discussion on these issues that a vast majority of States were visibly interested in pursuing during the last OEWG, even those who initially expressed reservations. Russia made no serious attempts to negotiate the content of the report and as a result Russia’s obstructionism prevented the OEWG from reaching consensus, even on a simple procedural report. Despite Russia’s spoiling tactics, the vast majority of States at the OEWG noted that the forum had proven itself and supported the continuation of that process. While Russia did all it could to prevent states from discussing responsible behaviors at the UN, it continues to advance spurious justifications for its own irresponsible conduct such as its destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test that created more than one thousand pieces of debris and the use of threatening rhetoric against satellites of other countries.
Russia seeks to lock us into the same stagnant debate that has not made progress since 1978. If we are serious about addressing issues related to preventing an arms race in outer space, then we cannot be focused solely on rushing to negotiate a legally binding instrument on no solid ground, nor on proposals that seek only to limit the deployment of space capabilities, which is what the Open-ended working group to be established by L.55 seeks to do. That OEWG would be duplicative, limited in scope, and would not bring unity or consensus among
UN Member States. It only seeks to drag Member States in a never-ending process instead of making concrete, step by step progress.
Instead, we should respond to the recommendation from the Secretary General’s Report from the 76th session, which calls for a broad approach, stating, “I continue to believe that a combination of binding and non-binding norms is needed, building on existing frameworks and drawing in the full range of actors now involved in space exploration and use.” This is what the OEWG to be established by L.15 seeks to do.
Colleagues, there are real threats to our space systems and to all countries’ ability to use outer space for peaceful purposes, but the Further Practical Measures resolution is not the answer.
Thank you, Chair.