Seventy-eighth Session,
17th Meeting (AM)

Debate on Disarmament Aspects of Outer Space Exposes First Committee Rift over Ways to Sustain Space Security, Prevent Domain’s Weaponization

Members Begin Wide-Ranging Discussion on Conventional Weapons, Hearing from Major Groups of States

Positions hardened over two competing approaches to preventing an outer space arms race — one promoting responsible behaviours through voluntary commitments and the other calling for an early start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument — as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its thematic debate on the subject today.

Canada’s representative was among those who recognized such divisions over the way forward.  “This ongoing division only serves to perpetuate the deadlock in space disarmament deliberations,” she warned.  The treaty process is long.  Given that, practical steps, such as establishing norms of responsible behaviours, are necessary.  The norms and principles could become legally binding international law in the future, she added.

New Zealand’s speaker agrees and supports the United Kingdom-led draft resolution (document A/C.1/78/L.15) calling for the establishment of a further two-year open-ended working group in 2025-2026 to build on the work of its predecessor.  He is concerned with the Russian-led proposal (document A/C.1/78/L.55) calling for the establishment of a separate four-year working group focused on a legally binding instrument to address the risk of space conflict. 

The representative of the United States urged delegations to vote against “L.55”, saying its passage would create a “divisive, duplicative, narrowly-focused” new open-ended working group.  Italy’s representative said that a “parallel process” would be counterproductive and put an enormous strain on the already busy disarmament calendar.

Supporting the notion of a legally binding instrument to protect space security was China’s representative, who advocated advancing those negotiations to prevent an outer space arms race.  He said that some countries reject negotiations because they are unwilling to subject their military capabilities in outer space to substantive restrictions and believes this has resulted in a stalemate.  He noted the submission to the Conference on Disarmament by China and the Russian Federation of a draft treaty, which, he said, has received broad support.

Nigeria’s delegate urged the Conference on Disarmament to start negotiating a treaty, stressing the importance of an international legal framework to allow for equal exploration based on the principle of non-appropriation and peaceful use.  In that vein, Algeria’s speaker said the China-Russian Federation draft treaty provides a good basis for further discussion.  Although voluntary measures are important, they cannot replace the conclusion of a legally binding treaty on preventing an outer space arms race, he said. 

“We do not play favourites,” said Brazil’s speaker.  His delegation seeks to reconcile perceptions at odds with each other.  The development of norms on responsible behaviour can address some immediate concerns. This and the long-term endeavour of developing a legally binding instrument should not be competing but reinforcing.  Similarly, the Permanent Observer for the Holy See said that a legally binding agreement on outer space may prove difficult to reach in the short-term, whereas non-binding measures can help build trust.  He welcomed, in that context, the convening of the working group outlined in “L.15”.

Following the conclusion of the debate on the disarmament aspects of outer space, the Committee began its thematic discussion on conventional weapons, which it will resume when it meets at 10 a.m., Monday, 23 October.

Disarmament Aspects of Outer Space

CAMILLE PETIT (France) noted the difference between the current space environment and that of 35 years ago, when the prevention of an outer space arms race was on the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda.  The proliferation of space systems and their dual nature, the growing dependence of societies on space services and the appearance of hostile behaviours make it necessary to analyse space security more broadly. International law applies to outer space, especially the UN Charter and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.  This legal framework must be complemented with concrete measures, such as greater transparency on space activities.  France is clear about its space doctrine on space policy, including its capabilities.  The Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours identified several elements that could provide a basis for possible future legally binding instruments. The absence of consensus on the Group’s final report does not detract from these successes.  Paris therefore supports the United Kingdom-proposed resolution to establish a successor working group to continue discussions.

BRAULIO FAUSTO (Mexico) insisted on establishing a legally binding instrument to ensure that no State or private entity could place weapons of any kind under any circumstances in outer space.  He stressed the importance of addressing space issues through a multilateral, inclusive approach that accounts for all States’ concerns, independent of their space capabilities.  While Mexico favours a legally binding instrument, he acknowledges the value of supplementary confidence-building measures and other agreements.  The accelerated development of new technologies, which can be used maliciously, requires the UN’s urgent attention.  He called on the authors of competing resolutions on the same topic to cooperate towards a unified proposal, in order to avoid parallel processes that lead to inefficient resource use and aggravate polarization and fragmentation.

YOON SEONGMEE (Republic of Korea) noted that, as a space-faring nation, her country considers that the Open-Ended Working Group has proven itself, over the past two years, as a constructive platform in finding convergence of views on space threat reduction.  She welcomed the resolution tabled by the United Kingdom, while expressing deep concern over creating another open-ended working group on the prevention of an arms race in outer space even before starting discussions at the Group of Governmental Experts.  With more actors, access and dependency, she noted that space is becoming increasingly congested, contested and competitive.  She stressed that the recent launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, although they were unsuccessful, cannot be considered peaceful use of outer space.  She reaffirms her country’s unwavering commitment to international efforts to ensure that space activities are conducted in a way that promotes global peace and security.

NICHOLAS CLUTTERBUCK (New Zealand) said that his country sees the value in continuing conversations on reducing space threats through promoting responsible behaviours in space.  In this regard, Auckland co-sponsors resolution “L.15” on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours.  The text calls for the establishment of a further two-year open-ended working group in 2025-2026.  The group’s proposed mandate aims to focus discussions on areas where consensus has been emerging to identify and agree on pragmatic and timely areas for progress. The two-year timeframe will help to maintain current momentum in the space security conversation and support the international community to address the risk of conflict in space.  New Zealand is concerned with the Russian Federation-proposed resolution that calls for the establishment of a separate four-year working group focused on a particular legally binding instrument to address the risk of conflict in space.

OGASAWARA ICHIRO (Japan) said that advancing rule-making on space security is an imminent challenge for all.  Tokyo appreciates the inclusive and comprehensive discussions at the Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours.  He regrets that no consensus was reached on the substantial report.  However, the abundance of working papers and interactive dialogues among Member States coupled with the participation of non-governmental stakeholders demonstrated keen interest in this matter.  The Chair’s summary provides a useful basis for advancing future discussions.  Wide cross-regional support for the work of the Group and for its continuation was evident. Japan considers the “responsible behaviour” approach to be a practical way forward and supports re-establishing the Group in 2025.

JASON ROBINSON (Ireland) said space is a global common good and therefore requires new global rules and norms governing human activity in space. They must be in line with international space law.  Ireland remains deeply concerned by the development and proliferation of anti-satellite weapons, which are a matter of humanitarian concern and could lead to a deterioration of confidence between space actors.  In the context of the Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats, Ireland, together with European Union member States, committed to not conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests.  He regretted that the Group could not reach a consensus on a substantive report, but acknowledged the valuable cross-regional engagement that took place during the two-year discussions.  He underscored the importance of an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder approach to facilitate substantial progress in making space safer, more secure and sustainable through the contribution of technical knowledge and collaborative efforts.

MANUEL JESÚS DEL ROSARIO VELA (Spain) welcomed the United Kingdom’s proposed resolution on norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour as a step in the right direction.  Since the beginning, Spain has supported the Open-Ended Working Group to respond to threats through confidence- and transparency-building measures. While the Group did not reach consensus on a final report, it generated a framework for dialogue and trust for States to share priorities and concerns for accelerated change.  The broad interest from most participating States reflected a growing need to develop some kind of regulation to prevent the widening divide between technological development and current regulations.  Spain also welcomed the commitment of a growing number of States to not conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests in outer space.

LAURENT MASMEJEAN (Switzerland) said a military confrontation in outer space would have considerable consequences to services essential for civilian populations.  He called for the international community to ensure that outer space does not become a theatre of war.  Further, adoption of a military doctrine considering space as an area of combat increases tensions.  Stressing that tests and use of anti-satellite weapons are very worrying — including the debris they can create — he welcomed the announcement by a number of States that they will not pursue destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests, to which his Government committed to last year.  He reaffirmed the conviction that international humanitarian law applies to all armed conflicts, whether on Earth, in the water or in space, warning that the risk of collateral damage to civilians on Earth gives rise to serious questions as to how to conduct a conflict in outer space.

ASADALLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran) expressed solidarity with Palestine during these trying times and vehemently denounced barbaric atrocities and heinous crimes committed by the Zionist regime.  Iran is deeply troubled by the security risks posed by the deployment of strategic missile defence systems, reiterating the need for a non-discriminatory multilateral approach to address these issues within the United Nations. Turning to the establishment of a new group of governmental experts on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he said its success hinges on avoiding the entrenchment of politicized positions among its members.  He called on the United States to withdraw its opposition to the establishment of a special negotiating committee under the prevention of an arms race in outer space, while noting sanctions imposed by the United States against Iranian space agencies.  Iran strongly advocates against monopolizing outer space or attempting to curtail the peaceful use of space-related science, technology and services for developing countries.

LEONARDO BENCINI (Italy) said the international community must improve space security in this contested and congested environment.  One issue discussed during the Open-Ended Working Group was destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests.  These tests create debris that seriously endanger space activities and could have long-lasting, increasingly negative consequences.  Italy has committed not to conduct such tests.  Rome is concerned that the First Committee will approve the mandates of two separate working groups.  The Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours covers all the issues requiring urgent discussion.  A parallel process would be counterproductive and put an enormous strain on the already busy disarmament calendar.

ASHLYN CLAIRE MILLIGAN (Canada) noted that divisions remain over the way forward to prevent an arms race in outer space. Some advocate a legally binding instrument, while many others support a comprehensive approach that includes norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour.  This ongoing division only serves to perpetuate the deadlock in space disarmament deliberations.  Legally binding instruments and norms and principles are not contradictory. Broadly adopted norms of responsible behaviours can become legally binding international law in the future. But the treaty process is long. As such, practical steps are necessary. Canada has concerns regarding the proposal for a second open-ended working group with a singular focus on legally binding measures, as it would create a parallel process with the United Kingdom-led proposal.

MOHAMMED LAWAL MAHMUD (Nigeria) reiterated the urgent need to start substantive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a legally binding, multilaterally verifiable instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space.  He emphasized the importance of an international legal framework that allows for equal exploration based on the principle of non-appropriation and peaceful use.  All States, especially those with major space capabilities, have a special responsibility to the peaceful use of outer space and to prevent an arms race.  He called on all States to refrain from any action contrary to the peaceful use of outer space and to adhere to relevant existing treaties.

BRUCE TURNER (United States) recalled the overwhelming support at the General Assembly in 2022 for the resolution against conducting destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing in outer space.  Member States have signalled strong support for new initiatives to address pressing threats to the outer space environment and space security.  Thirty-six countries have so far joined the United States in making these national commitments.  This is the best way to ensure that this proposal will become an internationally recognized norm of behaviour.  His country also is delighted that States reached consensus on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures at the most recent meeting of the Disarmament Commission.

He urged States to heed the Secretary-General’s call for the pursuit of voluntary commitments.  In this regard, the United States supports “L.15” on creating a successor open-ended working group to carry forward the recently concluded process. Member States should vote against “L.55”, or at a minimum, its operative paragraph 8 because this would create a divisive, duplicative, narrowly-focused new open-ended working group. Additionally, Washington, D.C. does not support “L.53” on no first placement of weapons in outer space. Among its many flaws, the text’s inadequate crafting of what constitutes a “weapon in outer space” risks unduly or unfairly constraining promising dual-use technologies.  All should support “L.15” as a proven path forward on these important space security matters.  There is no turning back.

ARTEMIS PAPATHANASSIOU (Greece) recognized the five UN treaties on outer space and the relevant General Assembly sets of principles as constituting the cornerstone of international space law. The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two subcommittees are unique platforms for inclusive dialogue on policy issues.  She called on the international community to discuss ways and means to reinforce space governance for the benefit of present and future generations, as peace in outer space cannot be secured without preventing an arms race there. She welcomed the resolution advanced by the United Kingdom and expressed support for the Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours. The Group operated as an inclusive and transparent platform for dialogue, she said.

SHEN JIAN (China) noted that some Member States are preoccupied with a great power competition by declaring outer space as a “warfighting domain”.  These actions pose severe threats to global security and increase the likelihood of an arms race in outer space.  He called on Member States to ensure the peaceful use of outer space and fully guarantee the right of States to its peaceful exploration.  It is imperative to advance negotiations on a legally binding instrument for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he said, expressing concern that some countries are unwilling to subject their military capabilities in outer space to substantive restrictions.  They reject negotiations for such an instrument. This has resulted in a stalemate in the process.  In response to these challenges, China and the Russian Federation jointly submitted a draft treaty to the Conference on Disarmament — a treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space objects.  This proposal has received broad international support.

WILLIAM SAETER (Norway) stated that work to reduce space threats should be continued in a new open-ended working group with a focused mandate, as proposed in the United Kingdom’s draft resolution.  The behaviour-based approach offers a way forward towards a legally binding instrument, political commitments or both. Form is secondary to the objective of reducing threats.  Norway also strongly supports universalizing The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation as an important transparency- and confidence-building measure.  He called on subscribers to implement its provisions and to provide pre-launch notifications. 

FLÁVIO SOARES DAMICO (Brazil) said outer space cannot be insulated from security developments on Earth.  A clear defining border between safety and security lay in the past.  Critical infrastructure, such as communications, are over-reliant on satellites. Dependence and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin.  It is natural that concerns emerge regarding the possibility that outer space eventually will become an arena for conflict.  Brazil seeks to reconcile perceptions at odds with each other.  “We do not play favourites,” he said.  The development of norms on responsible behaviour can have a useful role in addressing some immediate concerns in the intersection between safety and security, but it is not a sufficient condition for the prevention of arms control in outer space.  This and the long-term endeavour of developing a legally binding instrument should not be competing, but reinforcing.

OLIVER MUSONDA (Zambia) said the weaponization and militarization of outer space would threaten to turn it into “a battlefield or fourth frontier of war”.  Citing resolutions on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he expressed support for global principles of responsible behaviour, which will contribute to increased international cooperation, peaceful exploration and use of outer space, and facilitate equal access and increased transparency in the conduct of space activities.  Preventing an outer space arms race is crucial to ensuring an equitable distribution of benefits derived from space exploration, thereby contributing to scientific understanding, technological advancement and economic opportunities. Should an arms race occur, however, the focus would shift to militaristic endeavours, neglecting the potential for international space cooperation on missions to Mars or the moon.

VIVIANA ROCIO SANABRIA DUARTE (Paraguay) called for a legally binding and appropriate regime that guarantees the aspirations of all members of the international community in outer space.  While developing an international instrument to regulate this realm, the international community should also adopt transparency- and confidence-building measures and comply with relevant UN resolutions.  Paraguay is making progress in development, both in space engineering and applications of Earth observation, with an emphasis on capacity-building to implement a national sustainable space programme.  The principles of her country’s space policy are capacity-building, national development and strengthening international cooperation.

LARBI ABDELFATTAH LEBBAZ (Algeria) joined the condemnation of the massive aggression against defenceless and unarmed Palestinian population.  Women and children are butchered every day in front of all the world.  On the prevention of an outer space arms race, he stressed the need to strengthen the existing legal framework by adopting a legally binding international instrument.  The updated draft treaty text submitted to the Conference on Disarmament by the Russian Federation and China provides a good basis for further discussion and negotiation.  He called on the Conference on Disarmament to begin negotiations on the issues. Although voluntary measures are important, they cannot replace the conclusion of a legally binding treaty on preventing an arms race in outer space.

TATIANA BÁRBARA MUÑOZ PONCE (Bolivia) emphasized the sovereign right of all States to engage in outer space exploration for peaceful purposes, regardless of their level of development.  Heightened tensions among nations with space capacities underscore the need for greater control and transparency in the use of outer space. She called for a review of the existing legal instruments governing space activities, with a specific emphasis on negotiating a legally binding instrument to fortify the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.  This instrument should encompass provisions related to verification.  Reiterating Bolivia’s commitment to preventing an arms race in space, she stressed the importance of practical measures to coordinate agreements aimed at prohibiting the placement of weapons in outer space. She hoped that the work of the Group of Governmental Experts, aiming for a consensus, can serve as the foundation for future negotiations on an international legally binding instrument.

YILIAM GOMEZ SARDINAS (Cuba) said it is not encouraging to witness continuing attempts to dilute the path towards a legally binding instrument for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  She noted that the Group of Governmental Experts advised moving towards such an instrument.  In that connection, she called for an expanded format to discuss the topic by establishing an open-ended working group allowing the participation of all States.  Condemning the use or threat of use of force against satellites and other objects, she noted the draft treaty presented by the Russian Federation and China, which is a good basis for negotiations.  Space technology should in no way be used to undermine States’ sovereignty, she stressed, voicing concern over the extensive network of spy satellites.  She further demanded the end of unilateral coercive measures which hinder the development of space activities for peaceful purposes.

GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that the military use of outer space remains relatively uncontrolled, which risks the prospect of an arms race.  Many States have conducted anti-satellite weapons tests, creating more debris in low Earth orbit, he said, urging the Committee to support efforts to prevent such testing in line with the General Assembly resolution last year condemning these tests.  The Holy See condemns any aspiration to extend to outer space the weapons and military capabilities that cause immense suffering and destruction on Earth. In light of growing investments in military space capabilities, he said the Committee should refocus on its primary mission, which is achieving comprehensive disarmament with strong international oversight.  While a legally binding agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space may prove difficult to reach in the short- term, non-binding measures can help build trust, he said, welcoming in this regard the convening of the Open-Ended Working Group.


Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Republic of Korea should not advance its sinister political agenda in this forum. It should look into the UN Charter and the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, including regarding satellite launch and the right to space development.  No one should take an issue with the sovereign rights of his country, including the right to self-defence.  He asked why, if his country’s satellite launches are censured, the thousands carried out by the United States and other countries are not.  They should be subject to condemnations.  He rejected claims that his country’s satellite technology is used to acquire nuclear delivery capability because it is already operating an intercontinental ballistic-missile delivery system.  The United States placed many military reconnaissance satellites over the Korean peninsula and a space force in the Republic of Korea.  This is nothing but a camouflage for a pre-emptive attack against an anti-American country.

The representative of the Russian Federation, in right of reply, strongly rejected the statements by the United States and New Zealand against his country’s draft resolution on practical measures to prevent an arms race in outer space.  The Russian Federation’s proposal, he said, aims to ensure continuous consideration of all aspects of preventing an arms race, doing so inclusively, comprehensively and in line with established practice.  The future open-ended working group’s mandate would have a wide, unifying agenda accounting for the results of work in all specialized forums to date. In particular, it would consider recommendations on substantive elements of an international legally binding instrument.

From the outset, the concept proposed in 2020 of “so-called responsible behaviour” in outer space was non-consensual and controversial in nature.  It is divisive and its goals were not to prevent an arms race, but rather to replace it with ways of regulating military and weapons activity in outer space.  The Group was unable to bring Member States’ positions closer and provoked the most serious split on fundamental aspects of the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  Instead of becoming a unifying platform, the Group deepened discrepancies and differences among Member States on all issues in its mandate.  The notion of responsible behaviour in outer space is divisive in nature and very narrowly focused, leading to further fragmentation rather than consolidation.

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, stated that previous statements by the Arab Group and Iran about his country are baseless and absurd.  The accusation by the Arab Group that Israel’s statements this week were “out of context” and “unrelated to the First Committee” are an effort to hide the inconvenient fact that its members declined to condemn Hamas’ heinous acts of terror.  He asked why those members did not condemn Hamas for launching against Israel one of the most barbaric terrorist attacks ever witnessed, an unprovoked attack that led to the “brutal slaughter of babies”.  He further questioned why they have not condemned the tragedy Hamas is bringing upon innocent Palestinian people, including the casualties of the Islamic Jihad rocket that exploded on 17 October at a hospital in Gaza, and why they automatically echo deceitful announcements and fake news from Hamas, even at the price of stirring violence throughout the region. 

Recalling the lack of condemnation of the recent call by Iran’s supreme leader to proxies around the Middle East to prepare attacks against civilians in Israel, he affirmed that there will be no answers because the Arab Group is “too busy creating baseless lies about my country”.  A lie does not become a truth even if repeated an endless number of times, even when repeated by certain Member States in the Committee and across UN forums.  While the representatives of Iran turned to lies against his country, he emphasized that they were correct about one thing:  actions speak louder than words.  He recalled that Iran funds Hamas’ weaponry with $100 million annually, and, in its genocidal quest to eliminate Israel, will step on whomever it needs — including innocent Palestinians.  Turning to Syria, he noted “one really needs a sense of humour to take lessons from a regime” that has been killing its own people for over a decade, including with chemical weapons.  Israel will continue to fight disinformation, he stressed.

Speaking in right of reply, the representative of the United States said President Biden mourns the loss of every innocent life, whether Israelis, Palestinian or American, and announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.  However, the 7 October attack was indeed a Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, he said, reiterating his support for Israel’s right to self-defence.  According to the United States’ intelligence community, which is still conducting a comprehensive review, Israel was not responsible for the bombing of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. 

He said that a lack of a substantial outcome at the recent meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group was the result of one State that did not wish to reach consensus.  Responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said the recent ballistic-missile launches violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions and are seen as a threat to regional and global security.  In contrast, the United States’ long-standing bilateral and trilateral military exercises with the Republic of Korea and Japan are purely defensive in nature and are intended to maintain force readiness and preserve regional security.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, in right of reply, said that any satellite launch using ballistic-missile technology, regardless of its payload, contributes to the development of ballistic-missile technology capable of delivering nuclear weapons. With each test, Pyongyang gets closer to achieving its goal.  This is why the Security Council adopted many resolutions to prevent it.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s satellite launches do not fall into the category of “peaceful purposes”.  The UN Charter prohibits the use or threat of use of force.  Pyongyang should stop its unlawful acts.

The representative of Jordan, in right of reply on behalf of the Arab Group, condemned in the strongest possible terms the Israeli aggression that continues to hit civilian victims.  The catastrophe at Al Ahli Arab Hospital is an escalation, and he condemned this heinous crime against innocent civilians.  Israel uses its platform to lie about reality, but its attempts are unsuccessful.  Reiterating that international law cannot be selective, he called again for the war against Gaza to cease to protect civilians, as well as to lift the siege and ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in Gaza.  He rejected any attempts to forcibly displace Palestinians and reiterated the Group’s position against the policy of collective punishment, whether through siege, famine or displacement of populations.  These abject acts are contrary to humanitarian values and international law.

He warned that, if the war does not stop but broadens its scope, the entire region will be in danger and catastrophe will ensue, with very wide consequences.  The Group will continue defending its Palestinian brothers and their just cause. The reason for this conflict is the occupation.  Ending it will be the way to achieve peace, with a Palestinian State along the lines of 4 June 1967 with East Jerusalem as the capital, with international legitimacy.

The representative of Iran, responding to the representative of the Israeli regime, rejected his absurd statement — noting that regime has threatened his country twice with nuclear annihilation, in 2018, and just two days ago.  That regime has no legitimacy to point fingers and level baseless allegations, he stressed, citing his own recent reference to its secret weapons of mass destruction programmes, which constitute a threat to the region and the world.  He called on the international community not to be distracted from the daily crimes of that regime in Palestine and beyond.

He said that the Israeli regime demonstrates the most alarming disregard for human rights — boasting about issuing advanced warning for launching invasions into homes and hospitals, which are a breach of international humanitarian law.  Regrettably, the past days have witnessed further atrocities committed against defenceless Palestinians:  entire families targeted, intentional targeting of objects that are not military in nature and strikes against personnel involved in humanitarian missions, with at least 15 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) killed since the start of hostilities, among many other intentional attacks.  Yesterday, that regime bombed one of the world’s oldest and most significant churches in Gaza, injuring many who sought refuge inside.  “The list is excessive, and more horrifying crimes are being added daily,” he said, calling for the international community not to be deceived by its “weapons of mass deception”.

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected statements made by the Israeli entity regarding Syria.  He said it was a common practice by the representatives of this entity to divert the world’s attention from the grave violations of international law.  The Israeli entity continues to violate the rights of Palestinians and practise terrorism.  It attempts to shift responsibility for its actions onto other parties and condemn States that claim to uphold international law, but are seen as complicit in these crimes.  He called on the international community “to put an end to the blood bath” and to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

As for the accusations of the use of chemical weapons, he questioned the existence of the Israeli entity, which was founded on a history of aggression and strikes against civilians.

The representative of the Russian Federation, in right of reply, rejected accusations by the United States regarding the Russian Federation’s special military operation, which “has nothing to do with” the issues discussed today.  The low outcome for the Open-Ended Working Group on responsible behaviours is due to the differences in defining “responsible behaviours”.  It is not useful to recreate that group, which will only serve to cause a further divide.  Instead, States should focus on the real issue of preventing an outer space arms race by developing a legally binding instrument.  The open-ended working group proposed by Moscow will resolve these issues.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, again in right of reply, rejected the provocative statements by the United States and Republic of Korea.  His country’s launch of a military satellite is a deserving countermeasure to cope with United States military threats, which have already crossed the red line.  The launch is an exercise of the right to self-defence aimed at safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity.  While the United States absurdly argues its joint military exercise is not prohibited by the Security Council, it is exploiting the Council as an instrument for hegemony and arbitrary practice.  If the exercises are for defence purposes, he asked, why not carry them out “far away from the Korean Peninsula instead of doing so at our very doorstep”?

He said his country has never recognized Council resolutions infringing upon a sovereign State’s rights and will never be bound by them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will make all possible efforts to bolster its war deterrent, cognizant of long-term threats and challenges.  The more desperately the United States and Republic of Korea escalate confrontational moves against his country, the more clearly and offensively it will exercise its sovereignty and legitimate right to self-defence.

The representative of the United States, responding to the Russian Federation’s delegate, noted that, yesterday, he stated that satellites used to support Ukraine in its legitimate right to self-defence against Moscow’s illegal invasion are legitimate targets for retaliation. “This sounds like a direct threat from Russia to use force in outer space, and does not seem to be responsible behaviour,” he stressed.  The international community must acknowledge that destructive testing of direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles also contributes to mistrust and instability and is not responsible behaviour.  He emphasized that it was the Russian Federation that conducted cyberattacks against Ukrainian satellite communications terminals on the first day of its illegal invasion, taking out personal and commercial Internet users and even wind farms across Europe.  Further, the Russian Federation has conducted tests of a space-based anti-satellite weapon by releasing projectiles into orbit in 2017 and 2020, and deployed satellites with weapons in orbit today, “despite being the principal author of the no-first-placement resolution”.

Conventional Weapons

MARIA BENEDICTA DIAH KRISTANTI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their uncontrolled spread to unauthorized recipients in many regions of the world.  She called on all States, in particular major producing States, to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons is limited only to Governments or to entities duly authorized by them.  She also emphasized the need for a balanced, full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and the International Tracing Instrument.

She further called for financial, technical and humanitarian assistance to unexploded cluster munitions and landmines in clearance operations and victim rehabilitation.  Noting that member States of the Non-Aligned Movement are parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, she acknowledged the imbalance in conventional weapons production and trade and urged industrialized countries to significantly reduce these activities with a view to enhancing international and regional peace and security. Military expenditures should be reduced and instead resources should be channelled into economic and social development, she added.

TITHIARUN MAO (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the bloc’s members are gravely concerned by the illicit proliferation of conventional weapons throughout the world. It exacerbates violence and instability, prolongs poverty and undermines human well-being.  The use of small arms in conflict situations kills more than 200,000 civilians each year.  It also affects local people’s livelihoods, creates intense pressure on the local governments and surrounding regions.  In this regard, ASEAN welcomes the adoption by consensus of the final report of the eighth biennial meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument.

The threat posed by improvised explosive devices, particularly by non-State actors, must be addressed, he continued.  ASEAN notes the outcomes of the annual conference of high-contracting parties of the second amended protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  That Convention is tackling potential threats arising from lethal autonomous-weapons systems, including possible acquisition by armed non-State actors.  To counter these threats, a robust and future-proof legally binding instrument is needed.  ASEAN reiterates the significance of mine action in national rehabilitation and sustainable development and commends the role of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre as a centre of excellence in promoting the bloc’s efforts to address the issue of explosive remnants of war for interested member States, he added.

MOHAMMED LAWAL MAHMUD (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, underscored that Africa continues to be at the forefront of regions that suffer most from the illicit trade and transfer of small arms and light weapons.  While mainly produced outside the continent, they are acquired and used by unauthorized recipients and illegal armed groups in Africa.  He affirmed the central role of the UN Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument as crucial multilateral tools, and he reiterated the Group’s commitment to their implementation.  He urged States parties to the Arms Trade Treaty to implement it in a balanced and objective manner that protects all States’ interests.  The Group also reaffirmed, in accordance with the UN Charter, the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms, their parts and components for their security needs.

Additionally, he stressed the need to establish and maintain control over private ownership of small arms.  He called on all States to ensure that their supply are limited to Governments or entities authorized by Governments.  He also called on States to implement legal restrictions preventing their illicit trade, as universal adherence to that can contribute greatly to eradicating the scourge.  While the Group commends the contributions of several partners and donors, international assistance to support the Programme of Action’s implementation is still not commensurate with affected countries’ needs.  He called on all States to fulfil their obligations on reporting, technological transfer and ensuring the UN-mandated unhindered flow of international cooperation and assistance.  He also urged Member States, especially developed States, to provide more technical and financial assistance.  Such aid should not be conditional or detract from official development assistance.

SULTAN NATHEIR MUSTAFA ALQAISI (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the growing illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is having a catastrophic effect in the region. Further, some Governments provide terrorists with such weapons to promulgate conflicts and achieve their own interests in violation of international law, the UN Charter and relevant Security Council resolutions.  He called for preserving the Programme of Action as a consensual instrument, but cautioned that any measures taken must not run counter to States’ legitimate right of self-defence or the importation of conventional weapons for that purpose.  It is important to distinguish between combating illicit trade and the imposition of politicized or discriminatory restriction on the legitimate trade of conventional arms among Governments.

Noting that the Programme of Action is a standalone international framework, he said that it must not overlap with other international mechanisms and must avoid including controversial topics that it does not cover.  He reaffirmed the importance of stronger international cooperation and technical assistance to implement the international tracking instrument, without interfering in the sovereignty of States.  In addition, assisting a State should not lead to a reduction of its allocated official development assistance.  He welcomed adoption of an outcome document at the eighth Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action in 2022 and looked forward towards building on its recommendations in preparation for the fourth Review Conference on the Programme of Action in 2024.

For information media. Not an official record.