Explanation of Vote in the First Committee on Resolution L.54, Agenda Item 97(b): No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space

Ambassador Robert Wood
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
New York City
October 30, 2017


Mr. Chairman, my delegation will vote “No” on draft resolution L.54, “No first placement of weapons in outer space,” or “NFP.” The United States finds that Russia’s NFP initiative continues to contain a number of significant problems, and so our longstanding reasons for voting “No” have not changed. First, the NFP initiative does not adequately define what constitutes a “weapon in outer space.” Second, the NFP initiative contains no features that would make it possible to effectively confirm a State’s political commitment “not to be the first to place weapons in outer space.” Third, the NFP initiative is silent with regard to terrestrially-based anti-satellite weapons, which constitute a significant threat to outer space systems.

While Russia has said that it considers the NFP initiative to be a transparency and confidence-building measure (TCBM), the United States has found that the NFP initiative does not meet the criteria for a TCBM as established in the consensus report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) study on TCBMs for outer space activities (A/68/189) – a group that Russia chaired. That study was later endorsed by the full General Assembly in Resolutions 68/50, 69/38, 70/53, and 71/42, all of which the United States co-sponsored with Russia and China, as well as a resolution under consideration this year in the First Committee. As the GGE report stated, non-legally binding TCBMs for outer space activities should: 1, be clear, practical, and proven, meaning that both the application and the efficacy of the proposed measure must be demonstrated by one or more actors; 2, be able to be effectively confirmed by other parties in their application, either independently or collectively; and finally, 3, reduce or even eliminate the causes of mistrust, misunderstanding, and miscalculation with regard to the activities and intentions of States.

Given the lack of effective confirmation features, exploitable loopholes caused by the inability to reach consensus on the definition of a “weapon in outer space,” and the failure to address the near-term threat of terrestrially-based anti-satellite weapons, the United States has determined that the NFP initiative is inconsistent with consensually agreed criteria, and does not enhance U.S. national security interests.

It is also worth noting that this resolution offers an example of China’s attempts to impose its own view of multilateralism and world geopolitics on the international system. The United States cannot agree to this language, but looks forward to working with China and others in the months and years ahead to sustain and strengthen the international norms on which the global system is based.

Therefore, as we have done for the past three years, the United States will again vote “No” on this First Committee resolution and intends to vote “No” again in the full General Assembly.

Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to continuing to engage constructively and pragmatically with other UN Member States in order to strengthen the safety, stability, security, and sustainability of outer space activities.

The NFP initiative is not the answer.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.