Due to the negative Russian vote, the Security Council failed to adopt last month’s text, which received 13 votes in favour, with China abstaining. The draft resolution was introduced by United States and Japan, and co-sponsored by over 60 nations.

Assembly Vice-President Ahmad Faisal Muhamad opened the debate by reading a message from Dennis Francis, President of the General Assembly. 

Mr. Francis expressed concern that the Council could not reach consensus on addressing weapons of mass destruction in outer space.  

“Outer space does not belong to individual nations, its peaceful and sustainable use is not subject to national appropriation and must be a place of peace and cooperation for the benefit and in the interest of all countries,” he said.

“The militarization of outer space is a very concerning trend. Besides further deepening mistrust and divisions, this inevitably threatens life on Earth and could have catastrophic consequences.”

Clear prohibition

The Assembly President emphasized that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty “clearly prohibits” States parties from placing, installing or stationing in orbit around Earth  – or anywhere else in the cosmos – spacecraft carrying nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction.

Calling on all Member States to help safeguard the UN’s non-proliferation objectives both on Earth and in space, he urged nations to take all necessary steps to “keep the space weapons free.”

The debate was held as part of the General Assembly’s mandate under resolution 76/262 to discuss situations involving Security Council vetoes within 10 days of the veto.

The veto is a unique voting power held by the Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States. A negative vote from any of these countries automatically causes a resolution or decision to fail.

Video feed of the General Assembly meeting.

Russia: Serious legal doubts

Vasily Nebenzya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia, explained why his delegation voted against the American draft resolution.

He stated that despite its “beautiful sounding title”, the text failed to address its declared goal because that objective was already covered by existing international agreements and voiced concern the resolution could have had “far-reaching consequences” for disarmament processes.

“During the negotiations on this draft, we attempted in vain to get an answer from the authors on why they were trying to use the Security Council to reaffirm already existing international obligations in the area of outer space exploration,” he said.

He referenced the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which unequivocally prohibits placing weapons of mass destruction in outer space and suggested that discussions on this topic should take place in specialized forums that include all General Assembly members.

Ambassador Nebenzya criticized the draft for attempting to introduce new restrictions through the Security Council that were not previously established in any international instruments, including the 1967 Treaty, raising “serious doubts from a legal point of view” about these new restrictions.

“Imposing such obligations without preliminary, expert, legal and technical discussions is inadmissible,” he emphasized.

EU: Concern over hostile activities

Hedda Samson, Ambassador and Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU), responded to the Russian veto by emphasizing that it does not exempt Russia from its international legal obligations, including those outlined in the UN Charter, the 1967 Treaty, and international humanitarian law.

She emphasized the importance of enhancing space security, given that all nations increasingly depend on systems in orbit and beyond, for addressing climate change, disaster management, and sustainable development.

“Rising challenges and threats from outer space to our common security merit our full attention, including at the level of the Security Council,” she added.

In closing, Ambassador Samson also voiced EU’s concern over rising unfriendly and hostile activities in outer space.

“In this context, the European Union is actively engaged in promoting a safe, secure and sustainable space environment and the peaceful use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis for all, for present and future generations,” she said.

Japan: Not an arena for a nuclear arms race

Kazuyuki Yamazaki, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Japan, urged delegates to consider the catastrophic consequences if a nuclear weapon were detonated in outer space, resulting in the destruction of satellites and critical space infrastructure with irreversible impacts on people’s lives worldwide.

Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki of Japan addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on Russia’s use of its veto to quash a draft resolution aimed at keeping weapons out of outer space.

“The draft Security Council resolution on weapons of mass destruction in outer space, co-drafted by US and Japan, was intended to avoid such a nuclear catastrophe for humankind,” he added.

He highlighted the broad support for the draft, with 13 votes in favour and 65 co-sponsors.

“Regrettably, one permanent member decided to silence the critical message we wanted to send to the present and future people of the world: outer space must remain a domain free of weapons of mass destruction,” he lamented.

He said preventing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in outer space “must remain our priority”.

“Outer space must never be an arena for a nuclear arms race,” he said.

China: Draft not comprehensive or balanced

FU Cong, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China, emphasized that outer space is the “global commons and embodies the shared aspirations of all humanity”.

Ambassador FU Cong of China addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on Russia’s use of its veto to quash a draft resolution aimed at keeping weapons out of outer space.

“The world today is not at peace. The risk of outer space weaponization is on the rise and the right of developing countries to access space science and technology is being restricted,” he said.

He said the international community should take measures that benefit all countries.

These include preserving the peaceful character of outer space, urgently enhancing international space governance frameworks, and fostering increased cooperation and dialogue.

“The draft resolution on outer space security previously proposed by US and Japan is neither comprehensive nor balanced, which China is not in a position to support,” he said, adding that a new resolution proposed by Russia at the Security Council is more balanced and comprehensive.

“China support that [Russian] draft resolution and looks forward to its early agreement among Council members to jointly safeguard mutual trust and cooperation among all parties on the issue of outer space,” he added.

US: Transparent, inclusive negotiations

Robert Wood, US Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, emphasized that the debate surrounding Russia’s veto of the draft resolution presents a critical opportunity to promote accountability and transparency among all permanent members of the Council.

Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States, addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on Russia’s use of its veto to quash a draft resolution aimed at keeping weapons out of outer space.

He highlighted that the draft resolution aimed to affirm the obligations of all States parties under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, particularly over the prohibition of placing nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in outer space.

He explained that it also urged UN Member States not to develop nuclear weapons specifically designed for deployment in orbit, which would mitigate the risk of a nuclear incident in space and preserve vital satellites essential for communication, security, and sustainable development.

“It should not be at all controversial or difficult for the Security Council to affirm the clear obligations of parties under the Outer Space Treaty, nor should it be difficult to ask that States work together towards our shared interests,” he said.

Ambassador Wood noted that US and Japan, as the penholders, were deliberate, transparent, inclusive and flexible in their approach to the resolution, with the text evolving based on negotiations.

Regarding Russia’s new proposed draft resolution on the topic, he criticized it as a “diplomatic façade” concealing its “true intentions”.

The reality is that Russia currently possesses several conventional anti-satellite weapons in orbit, he said, citing a 2019 weapon test and ongoing threats against satellites.

“Russia’s actions cast significant doubt as to whether it will uphold its existing legal obligations under the Outer Space Treaty and raise concern about what this means for international peace and security,” he added.

Source of original article: United Nations (news.un.org). Photo credit: UN. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).

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