Report from the UN First Committee

22 October, 2002

From: Dave Knight

Prevention of an Arms race in Outer Space

Today the United Nations First Committee voted on the resolution: "prevention of an arms race in outer space" . The resolution was passed without any votes against and with the United States and Israel the only abstentions. Micronesia who abstained last year were not present.

After the vote Denmark made an "explanation of voting" statement on behalf of the European Union and a large number of other associated countries. The purpose was "to reiterate that the Conference on Disarmament is the only international multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament. Therefore, it is within the CD that any decision should be taken regarding work on the prevention of an arms race in outer space." This position is quite widely held and, with the lack of progress at the CD, it creates another block to the development of a new Outer Space Treaty. 

The New Agenda Coalition and Theatre Missile Defence

At the First Committee the New Agenda Coalition states are again pushing on the nuclear disarmament process and challenging the states with nuclear weapons, and in particular the US and its allies.

The resolutions: "Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a new agenda" , which Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden have submitted and had passed in previous years led to the Final Document of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty 2000 Review Conference.

The US has walked away from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and increased the rate of development of missile defence programmes. This year's updated NAC resolution reflects a post ABM Treaty world and their belief that these developments and the weaponisation of space are detrimental to international nuclear disarmament.

This year's draft resolution has now had one significant amendment from the original which had sections in the preamble stating: "Expressing concern that the development of strategic (my emphasis) missile defences could impact negatively on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and lead to a new arms race on earth and in outer space," and "Stressing no steps should be taken which would lead to the weaponization of outer space,"

After discussion and consultation the word "strategic" has been dropped, which means that Theatre Missile Defence programmes are included as causing concern with regard to nuclear disarmament and a new arms race on earth and in space.

This amendment was made by the NAC knowing that they are likely to lose support and votes for the resolution principally from those states that are involved with the US in the development of TMD programmes. The belief of the New Agenda Coalition that their role is to push at the boundaries of what is considered to be diplomatically realistic in the realm of nuclear disarmament deserves the support of NGOs, Campaigns and activists. It is, of course, vitally important that we, nevertheless, retain our radical positions. For instance, by opposing the militarisation of space, not just the weaponisation.

The US exerts control on allies

The NAC are also challenging the Nuclear Weapons States and in particular the US and its allies by highlighting non-strategic nuclear weapons in a separate and detailed resolution. The point of interest here is the extreme reaction of the US to this initiative. First they called a meeting of delegates from the NATO states plus Australia, Japan and South Korea to discuss the issue. In addition the US has been in contact with a number of the capitals of these states to make sure that none support the resolution. The US strategy of controlling its allies is in full swing.

Votes on these two resolutions will be later this week or early next week.

Dave Knight
Chair, Advisory Committee
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

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