Russia blocks UN resolution on peaceful use of outer space

new york — Russia blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday reaffirming the need to prevent a nuclear arms race in outer space.

The measure was proposed jointly by the United States, a nuclear power, and Japan, the only nation ever to be attacked with nuclear bombs.

“We have only begun to understand the catastrophic ramifications of a nuclear explosion in space,” said U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “How it could destroy thousands of satellites operated by countries and companies around the world — and wipe out the vital communications, scientific, meteorological, agricultural, commercial and national security services we all depend on.”

The failed text recalled the responsibility of states to comply with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is the basic framework on international space law. It says outer space is to be shared among nations and shall be free of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. The treaty also says the moon and other celestial bodies “shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes,” and astronauts shall be “regarded as the envoys of mankind.”

The proposed resolution also called on states “not to develop nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction specifically designed to be placed in orbit around the Earth, or to be installed on celestial bodies, or to be stationed in outer space in any other manner.”

Thomas-Greenfield noted that President Vladimir Putin has said publicly that Russia has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space.

“And so, today’s veto begs the question: Why? Why, if you are following the rules, would you not support a resolution that reaffirms them?” she asked. “What could you possibly be hiding? It’s baffling, and it’s a shame.”

Thomas-Greenfield just returned from Japan, where she visited Nagasaki, a city on which the United States dropped one of two atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

“It was a reminder of our profound responsibility to prevent the scourge of war and ensure that no place experiences the horror of nuclear weaponry ever again,” she said.

“Adopting this draft resolution would have been a positive and practical contribution to the promotion of the peaceful use and exploration of outer space,” said Japanese Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki. “If adopted, we could have demonstrated our unity in reaffirming the principle of no placement of any weapons of mass destruction in outer space and in opposing the development of such capabilities.”

The proposed resolution, which had more than 60 co-sponsors, created no new international obligations, but reaffirmed existing ones. It was supported by 13 of the 15 council members. After failing to get an amendment added to it, Russia vetoed it and China abstained.

“Today, our council is once again being involved in a dirty spectacle prepared by the U.S. and Japan,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said. “This is a cynical ploy. We are being tricked.”

He said Moscow wanted a text that would have gone further, banning weapons of any kind in outer space.

China’s new U.N. ambassador, Fu Cong, echoed that, saying the draft needed “other substantive elements.” 

US concerns

In February, U.S. officials said Russia is developing a space-based weapon to attack satellites. They do not believe it would target people or cause destruction on Earth.

Analysts at the Washington-based Safe World Foundation think tank say on their website that Russia is most likely developing a system “that would use a nuclear explosion to create weapons effects, most likely an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), that would in turn disable or destroy satellites.”

There are thousands of satellites in space that run the gamut from sophisticated military purposes to running a car’s GPS or providing television programming.

Although the U.S. resolution was not adopted, Thomas-Greenfield said Washington would continue to pursue bilateral arms control discussions with Russia in good faith.

The U.S. also has concerns about China’s work in space, where officials say they are rapidly developing a range of counterspace weapons and using outer space to strengthen the capabilities of their military forces on Earth.

“Over the last six years they have tripled the number of intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance satellites in orbit, and they have used their space capabilities to improve the lethality, the precision and the range of their terrestrial forces,” said General Stephen Whiting, commander of the U.S. Space Command.

He spoke by phone to regional journalists Wednesday from Tokyo, where he is meeting with allies.

your ad here

leave a reply: