9630th Meeting (PM)

For Second Time Since Late April Security Council Fails to Adopt First-Ever Resolution on Preventing Arms Race in Outer Space

France, United Kingdom, United States Reject Russian Federation’s Text

The Security Council again failed to adopt a resolution on outer space today — following the Russian Federation’s veto of a similar text on 24 April — with members voting in the same manner that saw the defeat of a proposed amendment to that text, which was then incorporated into the draft under present consideration.  (For background, see Press Release SC/15678 of 24 April.)

Introducing the text, the representative of the Russian Federation recalled that the 24 April vote demonstrated the West’s single motivation — “to attempt to portray the Russian Federation in an unfavourable light” and “assign to us a certain plan of action which we do not have”.  Today, Moscow has decided to provide those countries another opportunity — “not in word, but in deed” — to “demonstrate the peaceful nature of their intentions”, he said.  Unlike the “blatantly politicized” United States-Japan draft, today’s resolution will help guarantee the exclusively peaceful exploration and use of outer space, he emphasized.

Stating that today’s draft is “comprehensive” in nature, he said it reflects the “interests and aspirations of an overwhelming majority” of UN members.  It reaffirms States’ obligation not to place any kind of weapon in outer space — including those of mass destruction — and its adoption will help reaffirm the collective duty to keep outer space peaceful.  “Today’s vote is a unique moment of truth for our Western colleagues,” he emphasized, stating that a failure to support the text will demonstrate that such countries wish to retain their ability to militarize outer space.

The representative of the United States, however, stressed that Moscow is seeking to distract global attention from its development of a new satellite carrying a nuclear device.  The hastily drafted text does not reaffirm the basic provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Use of Force in Outer Space and from Space against the Earth and, for this reason, the United States will not support this “disingenuous” resolution, he said.  He also reported that, on 16 May, the Russian Federation launched a satellite into low-Earth orbit.

Stating that his Government assesses that device as “likely a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low-Earth orbit”, he also pointed out that this satellite was deployed into the same orbit as one belonging to the United States.  Noting that the Russian Federation vetoed a resolution supported by 13 Council members on 24 April, he also recalled that country’s President stating publicly that Moscow has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space.  “If that was the case, Russia would not have vetoed that resolution,” he said.

Re-taking the floor, the representative of the Russian Federation asked his counterpart from the United States to explain what is objectionable in the proposed text, as it contains identical language to the one vetoed on 24 April.  Because that draft limited its scope to weapons of mass destructions, today’s text proposed to encompass all forms of weapons, and he asked the representative of the United States to note the “defects in our resolution”.  “Yes, I read your bad text,” said the United States’ representative in response, adding that “we’ve seen this movie before” and suggesting that the Council decide on today’s text.

By a vote of 7 in favour (Algeria, Ecuador, China, Guyana, Mozambique, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone) to 7 against (France, Japan, Malta, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom, United States), with 1 abstention (Switzerland), the Council then failed to adopt the draft resolution, as it did not obtain the required number of votes.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Algeria said that his delegation voted in favour of the text as it aligns with his country’s long-standing position regarding the peaceful use of outer space.  Guyana’s representative echoed that, underlining the need to safeguard this “shared global commons” from arms races that threaten security and inhibit development agendas.  Sierra Leone’s representative, while recognizing some Council members’ concerns over the lack of consensus, nevertheless said that the adoption of any resolution that calls for the prevention of an arms race in outer space is a pivotal step.

It was that lack of consensus that many of those who voted against the resolution pointed to when explaining their position.  Japan’s representative recalled a recent statement by the representative of the Russian Federation that the discussion of space-security issues should involve all UN members — otherwise it would just be an attempt to impose the opinion of Council members on the wider membership. That same delegation now proposes a text on that issue that such membership would not accept, he said, adding: “We cannot find consistency in their approach.”

Similarly, Malta’s representative expressed regret that a permanent Council member first vetoed a resolution on this topic, only then to present its own text on the same issue.  Echoing that was the representative of the Republic of Korea, who also highlighted another point of contention shared by many who voted against today’s draft — that, given the dual-use nature of many space systems, it is very difficult to define a “weapon” in space.  Slovenia’s representative, along those lines, said that his delegation voted against the resolution due to its “ambiguous implications for the security of outer space”.

Observing that Moscow’s “alternative draft” came directly from the proposal of the United States and Japan, France’s representative said: “It is astonishing that Russia vetoed something that it used as inspiration for its draft.”  Moscow’s text was built around language that was voted down, added the United Kingdom’s representative, asking why it was put to a vote today.  He also emphasized:  “Coming from a country which has flouted so many obligations in arms control, this raises the red flag.”

China’s representative, meanwhile, said that “a certain country” has defined outer space as a “war-fighting domain”, accelerated the build-up of its “Space Force” and is deploying anti-missile systems and offensive weapons in outer space.  Noting that recent votes on the two draft resolutions on outer-space security indicate that parties still have different understandings and views on this issue, he added:  “It will take long-term efforts to build consensus.”  While expressing support for several elements of the draft text, Switzerland’s representative — who abstained — voiced regret that the spirit of flexibility and a framework of trust were lacking.

“We, on the whole, are pleased with the results of the vote,” said the representative of the Russian Federation.  Beyond the figures, he said that it demonstrates a “watershed between those who are striving towards the peaceful use of outer space and those who are moving towards the militarization” of that domain.  Western States’ attempts to justify their actions with the “allegedly non-consensual nature of our draft” are cynical and hypocritical, he stressed, stating that the real reason is banal:  “You simply wish to maintain your leeway to use outer space for military purposes.”

Pointing out that today’s text was based on the one vetoed on 24 April — but with the addition of language from an amendment that was voted down on that date — Ecuador’s representative observed that today’s outcome was “largely predictable”.  Urging that the Council not be politicized and used “as just one more arena that exposes today’s geopolitical tensions”, he asked:  “Why put this Council through a useless process when the result was already known?”

For information media. Not an official record.