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UN debate on peace in space

Sat Oct 24, 2015 5:41 am (PDT) . Posted by:

“Alice Slater”

Dear Friends,

Here’s a UN write up of the session in the UN First Committee meeting this
month to deal with disarmament issues that gives the sad story of how the US
with its militaristic allies is blocking efforts by Russia and China to
negotiate a legally binding treaty to prevent the weaponization of space.
During the debate, the Dutch Chair of the Committee cut the Russian speaker
off twice, in his impassioned statements to work for peace in space and
earlier this week when nuclear disarmament was discussed, for creating the
conditions for “strategic stability” that would enable the world to move
forward on nuclear disarmament such as foregoing US documents which seek to
control and dominate space. I was moved by the Russian statements and
appalled at ow the Dutch government treated the Russian so rudely. We need
to support the Russian and Chnese proposals to negotiate a legally binding
treaty to prevent weapons in space. The US claims the draft treaty is
inadequate, but as Russia and China say repeatedly, it’s only a draft open
to discussion and amendment. We should demand that the US enter into
meaningful negotiations to keep space for peace!!

Here’d an excerpt from my notes of the Russian delegate’s remarks:

“We are shocked when the US talks about dangers of ASAT. Let’s agree and
have it written in the draft treaty that they are prohibited. The anti-space
war arguments of the US are not sincere When we talked about a Code of
Conduct for many years and the US insists that paragraph 4.2 be
incorporated. (I believe that’s the Code provision that makes an exception
for self-defense! Which can be interpreted as a space war in self-defense!
Double talk!!) I propose that all states join Russia’s resolution that
there be no first placement of weapons in space. The US in its officials
documents indicates that it intends to dominate all other countries. Do we
want this or not? At one time we had very clear agreements between the US
and USSR. The 1972 agreement on ABM. The US in 2001 unilaterally withdrew
and opened up the possibility of war in outer space. Let’s be clear.
Everything said by the US and NATO and the Code of Conduct at the very least
is insincere.

https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/gadis3532.doc.htm

Divergent Paths Emerge in First Committee on Ways to Achieve Outer Space
Security, Safety, Sustainability, through Legally or Non-Legally Binding
Pacts

Seventieth Session,

15th Meeting (AM)

Meetings Coverage
<https://www.un.org/press/en/type-document/meetings-coverage>

Space security, safety and sustainability dominated debate today in the
First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and although there
was broad agreement on the need to preserve that realm for the public good,
divergent views emerged on how best to achieve that, with some speakers
defending a non-legally binding code of conduct that took into account the
political environment while others called for a binding treaty via an
inclusive and transparent process.

Problems faced in outer space were security issues in a broad sense, said
France’s representative, of the view that a comprehensive response covering
both civilian and military aspects was needed. The development of a code of
conduct for outer space activities addressed that need for both a
comprehensive approach, and transparency and confidence-building measures,
whereas a legally binding instrument would have to define what constituted a
weapon in space, she said.

The European Union’s representative said that a non-legally binding
international code of conduct for outer space would be an important
contribution to addressing challenges stemming from dangerous orbital debris
and thus the potential for destruction collisions, as well as crowding by
satellites and the growing saturation of the radio-frequency spectrum.
Outer space assets, operated by a growing number of governmental and
non-governmental entities, offered enormous benefits, but ensuring the space
environment for peaceful uses must be on an equitable and mutually
acceptable basis.

A major space-faring nation, the United States, said its representative, was
particularly concerned about the continued development and testing of
destructive anti-satellite systems, and contrary to the advocacy by some
States for arms control measures to prevent the use of force against space
objects, the development of those capabilities by some of those same States
could trigger “dangerous misinterpretations and miscalculations” and
escalate a conflict.

He understood that some nations preferred a new legally binding arms control
agreement, such as the June 2014 draft treaty on the prevention of the
placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against
outer space objects, offered by the Russian Federation and China at the
Conference on Disarmament. But, he argued, that text was “fundamentally
flawed” and could not form the basis of negotiations in Geneva. The United
States was convinced that many outer space challenges could be addressed
through practical near-term initiatives, such as non-legally binding
transparency and confidence-building measures.

It was clear, asserted the Russian Federation’s representative, that one
country wished to dominate outer space and to use force in that realm if
necessary. Whether it was wanted or not it was a reality that nevertheless
had to be dealt with. He was surprised and shocked when colleagues from
Europe and the United States talked about the “already existing threats” of
anti-satellite weapons. Nations should all agree to not be the first to
place weapons in outer space, and adopt a resolution to that effect.

The representative of China, noted the draft treaty – jointly proposed with
the Russian Federation – on preventing the placement of weapons in outer
space from 2008 and its updated version, presented last June. Given the
temptation to achieve a strategic advantage provided by military space
capability, he added, the growing tendency towards space weaponization was
having a greater impact on space security. He called on all countries to
work for more convergence and start multilateral negotiations on an arms
control treaty for outer space.

Speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations, the
representative of Uruguay said that the proposal on a legally binding
instrument presented by the Russian Federation and China was a positive
step. Having followed the recent deliberations on an international code of
conduct, sponsored by the European Union, the Union of South American
Nations was of the view that while resolutions on not being the first to
place weapons in outer space were important, those could not replace legally
binding measures.

Wrapping up its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction, the
Committee heard from the representative of Japan, who strongly and
categorically condemned the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons by
any party in Syria. He hoped that all chemical weapons-production
facilities would soon be physically destroyed in accordance with the
Convention on Chemical Weapons.

The representative of Syria said his country was committed to all aspects of
that Convention in its entirety, as a State party and as a member of the
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But its goals
could not be achieved without the commitment of Israel, which was the only
party that had not yet joined the treaties and conventions related to
weapons of mass destruction.

Also speaking today during the weapons of mass destruction cluster were
representatives of the Russian Federation and Iran.

Additional speakers in the outer space cluster were representatives of
Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Armenia (on behalf of the
Collective Security Treaty Organization), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group
and in its national capacity), Algeria, Pakistan, Venezuela, Australia,
Japan, Switzerland, Cuba, Kuwait, Italy, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Bangladesh,
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Iran, as well as an observer
of the Holy See.

Exercising the right of reply in that debate were the representatives of the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 26 October, to begin its
thematic debate on conventional weapons.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to
conclude its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction and to
begin consideration of the thematic cluster on outer space (disarmament
aspects). For more information see Press Release GA/DIS/3530
<https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/gadis3530.doc.htm> .

Alice Slater

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