This resolution was not a serious attempt to address the security of space: UK statement at the UN Security Council

Explanation of Vote by UK Political Coordinator Fergus Eckersley at the UN Security Council meeting on non-proliferation.

20 May 2024

Thank you, President, the UK is committed to preventing an arms race in outer space.

That is why we introduced a resolution in the General Assembly last year establishing norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviour to reduce threats to space systems. It was adopted with the overwhelming support of 166 Member States. And it is why the UK supported the US and Japanese draft resolution in this Council, which sought to affirm the basic obligations of the Outer Space Treaty and prevent any nuclear weapons being placed in orbit around Earth.

The detonation of a nuclear weapon in space could destroy or permanently damage a significant proportion of satellites in orbit around Earth, with highly disruptive and potentially life-threatening consequences for the essential space technology applications that we all rely on. It should be deeply concerning to all of us that Russia vetoed that resolution.

Russia’s counter resolution that we voted on today was simply not credible. It was a cynical attempt to distract attention away from reports that Moscow is developing a new satellite carrying a nuclear device. The resolution was built around language that was voted down just a few weeks ago by this Council and was widely opposed again in negotiations. So why put it to a vote again?

This was not a serious attempt to address the security of space. And Russia knows very well its proposals were not verifiable or enforceable. Coming from a country which has flouted so many obligations in arms control, this raises the red flag.

Let me remind you of Russia’s recent track record: plans to withdraw ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; withdrawal from Open Skies and the Comprehensive Forces in Europe Treaties; suspending participation in New Start, violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention; and, of course, breaching this Council’s resolutions on Iran and DPRK.

Colleagues, we need to redouble efforts to avoid an arms race in outer space, and to ensure our collective security. That requires serious, good faith discussion about the arms control architecture. We remain ready and willing to engage in those as a matter of urgency.

Thank you.


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John Pike