3 November 2015
Seventieth Session, 23rd Meeting (AM)

First Committee Approves Texts on Disarmament Aspects of Outer Space, Weapons of Mass Destruction, in Voting Pattern Reflecting Complex Security Concerns

Concerned about the possibility of outer space becoming “an arena for military confrontation”, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved a draft resolution, one of two on the topic, asking the General Assembly to urge an early commencement of substantive work to prevent the placement of weapons in outer space.

The text, entitled “No first placement of weapons in outer space”, reaffirmed the importance and urgency of the objective to prevent an outer space arms race and the willingness of States to contribute to that common goal.  In support of undertaking practical measures in the search for agreements, “L.47” welcomed the draft treaty, introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008, and its updated version of 2014.

Pending agreement, the draft resolution stressed that other measures might contribute to ensuring that weapons were not placed in outer space and it encouraged all States, especially space-faring nations, to consider upholding as appropriate a political commitment not to be the first.  The draft was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 4 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States, Georgia), with 47 abstentions.

Also in the cluster on outer space (disarmament aspects), the Committee took action on a draft on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, “L.3”, approving it by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Israel, Palau, United States).  By its terms, the Assembly would call on all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race there. 

On its cluster 2, Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution, introduced by Hungary, on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, “L.12”.  That text would encourage States parties to provide information on their implementation of the Convention’s article X, on protecting and encouraging the peaceful uses of biological science and technology, and to offer assistance to ensure compliance.

Also acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, “L.19”, by which the Assembly would urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the materials and technologies related to their manufacture, and their means of delivery.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote on the nuclear weapons cluster were representatives of France, India, Japan, United Kingdom (also on behalf of France, United States), Israel, Spain, Germany (joint statement), Bulgaria, Brazil, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Switzerland (also on behalf of Sweden), China, Sweden (also on behalf of Switzerland), Iran and the Russian Federation.

The representative of Pakistan spoke in explanation of the vote after the vote on the other weapons of mass destruction cluster.

Prior to action on the cluster on outer space, the representatives of the Russian Federation and Cuba delivered general statements.  Explaining their position before the voting were representatives of Ukraine, Chile, China, United States, Luxembourg (on behalf of European Union), Mexico, and Costa Rica.  The representative of Australia spoke in explanation of the vote after the voting.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, United States and Ukraine.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 November, to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it.


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue taking action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.  For more information see Press Release GA/DIS/3538.

Action on Cluster 1, Nuclear Weapons

Speaking in explanation of the vote on the first cluster on nuclear weapons, the representative of France said that “L.26” widely placed nuclear disarmament in the framework created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the consensus documents of the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.  The text recalled that the efforts leading to nuclear disarmament could be carried out only on the basis of the principle of undiminished security for all, in accordance with the Security Council resolution 1887 (2009).  The next two logical steps — the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and a treaty banning fissile material, were mentioned in the resolution.  France was fully aware of the grave consequences that could result from the use of nuclear weapons.  It was thus of the utmost importance for all States to work towards creating the conditions required for the achievement of the collective goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, when the strategic context allowed.

Additionally, she said, nuclear disarmament could only move forward through concrete, gradual measures that were fully in line with the security context.  France accorded the highest importance to nuclear security, but that process and disarmament were nevertheless two distinct topics, and seeking to create a link between them was artificial.  Above all, such a link could hamper the efficiency of international efforts towards nuclear security.  Given recent developments regarding the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, France had chosen to abstain on “L.26.”.

The representative of India said his delegation had abstained in the vote on “L.2” as a whole and had voted against preambular paragraphs 5 and 6, since the focus of the resolution should be limited to the region that it intended to address.  India’s position on the NPT was well known.  The 1969 Vienna Convention provided that States were bound by treaties based on the principle of free consent.  The call for States outside the NPT to accede to it was at variance with that principle and did not reflect current realities.  India was not party to the NPT and was not bound by it.

On “L.23”, he said India had abstained on that resolution as a whole, as well as on preambular paragraph 6.  Again, India’s position on the NPT was well known, and India would not join that treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.

On “L.26”, he said India remained committed to the global non-proliferation regime and stressed the need for a step-by-step disarmament process, underwritten by universal commitments.  In substantive terms, however, “L.26” fell short of that objective.  His delegation had voted against operative paragraph 5, because India could not accept the call to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State.  Nuclear weapons were an integral part of India’s national security.  His delegation had abstained on operative paragraphs 15 and 19 of that resolution, because the agreements referenced therein were only applicable to States parties to the NPT.

On “L.37”, he said India had voted in favour of the resolution, consistent with its participation in the three meetings on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.  That participation was premised on the shared concern for the serious threat to the survival of mankind posed by those weapons.

Noting that operative paragraph 1 of “L.21” called on the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations for a conference preventing the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, he said that was a longstanding resolution in the First Committee, but for reasons that were difficult to understand, some of the very States that were at the forefront of the humanitarian discourse and were the lead sponsors of “L.37” on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, had nevertheless voted against “L.21” on a convention banning nuclear weapons use.  He appealed to those States to reconsider their position and narrow the credibility gap between precept and practice, which was difficult to ignore.

His delegation had abstained on “L.38”, he said.  Although India had participated in the three humanitarian conferences, his delegation did not see the Humanitarian Pledge as an agreed outcome document of those meetings.  India shared concerns about the serious threat of the survival of humankind posed by the use of nuclear weapons, and had been unwavering in its commitment to nuclear disarmament.  However, India had not joined the Humanitarian Pledge, because of inherent dangers in proposals that splintered the disarmament machinery.

He said India attached particular important to “L.40”.  Tabled for the first time, by South Africa, the text highlighted the ethical dimension of nuclear disarmament.  He recalled the support for a number of previous proposals mentioned in the draft, including the first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, and the final document of the special session devoted to disarmament, known as SSOD1.  That resolution was a reminder of the long struggle for nuclear disarmament that had been waged in the United Nations General Assembly and outside, and in which India had played a leading role along with other States of the Non-Aligned Movement.  India agreed with several provisions of the present resolution, in particular, the acknowledgement that nuclear disarmament was a public good of the highest order.  India had once again co-sponsored “L.51” and supported the Movement’s proposal for the commencement of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention in the Conference on Disarmament.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, those weapons had posed ethical and moral dilemmas that were fundamental to human nature, he went on.  Their global elimination would require progressive steps towards a reduction in the role those weapons played in security polices and a universal commitment with a global and non-discriminatory multilateral framework for nuclear disarmament.  Until that stage had been accomplished, by common agreements in international legal instruments, questions regarding to the morality of nuclear weapons had to be balanced by the sovereign responsibility of States to protect their people in a nuclearized global order, on the pillars of nuclear deterrence.  India’s non-first-use posture sought to strike that very balance.  The illegality of nuclear weapons could not just be a matter of opinion by jurists.  Rather, it was necessary for the international community to conclude specific legal instruments for that purpose.  India had proposed a convention banning nuclear weapons.  The moral and ethical argument complemented the legal order, but could not supplant it.  India had abstained on “L.40”, but remained in further discussions with its sponsors, with a view to supporting it in the future.

On “L.44”, he said India attached the highest priority to nuclear disarmament and shared the main objective, which was the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  However, India had been constrained to abstain on “L.44” because of certain references to the NPT, on which India’s position was well known.  However, that abstention should not be seen as opposition to other provisions of the resolution, which were consistent with those of the Non-Aligned Movement.  He complimented Myanmar for retaining vital principles in the text.

On “L.55”, he said his delegation respected the sovereign choice of non-nuclear-weapon States to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones in their region.  That principle was consistent with the provisions of the first special session on disarmament. India enjoyed friendly relations with the countries of the African continent and shared their aspirations for the region’s well-being and security.  India respected the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty and welcomed its successful entry into force; India would respect the zone.

Speaking in explanation of the vote, on “L.37”, “L.38” and “L.40”, the representative of Japan said that his country, as the only one to have suffered the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, deeply sympathized with the cause.  It continued to pursue the total elimination of nuclear weapons in a way that was compatible with its security policy.  However, advancing disarmament, cooperation and trust between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States was essential, and recognition of the humanitarian consequences of those weapons should be a bridge-builder, and not a dividing factor, for the international community.  Japan had made voting decisions on the three based on its security policy.  On “L.32”, it had voted in its favour because it was important to deepen substantial discussions on ways to seek common approaches.  But it was important to not allow it to prejudge discussions in the Conference on Disarmament.

Turning to “L.44”, he said Japan had abstained from voting.  It shared the goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, but to steadily implement concrete measures towards that goal, it attached importance to united actions, including by the nuclear-weapon States.  On “L.51”, which was a follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Japan had abstained.  Due to the destructive force of nuclear weapons, their use did not comply with the spirit of humanitarianism.  Nevertheless, the court’s advisory opinion, as set out in this resolution, demonstrated the issue’s complexity, he said, adding that realistic measures were required to achieve steady progress in disarmament.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking also on behalf of France and the United States, turned to “L.15”, saying that the group had taken part in the 2013 high-level meeting in good faith and had delivered both joint and national statements.  However, the present resolution did not express their views nor those of other States that had participated.  Regrettably, the text’s only reference to the NPT was insufficient, incidental and unbalanced, and he was puzzled as to why it contained no reference to the 2010 action plan. Planning another conference in 2018 was not consistent with the NPT. He remained concerned that some States appeared to be moving away from the consensus reached in 2010.

Regarding “L.41”, he said the group’s reasons for voting against it were founded on the same concerns they had had about last year’s text.  It did not achieve an equitable balance between the three NPT pillars.  Certain new elements in this year’s text were never part of the NPT action plan, and references to the step-by-step approach had disappeared.  The focus must remain on proven measures that promoted rather than detracted from international security and stability.

Explaining her position on “L.1”, the representative of Israel said it stemmed from its focus on a meaningful regional process towards establishing direct engagement and dialogue towards a peaceful Middle East.  That was in the same vein as its participation in five rounds of consultations and willingness to participate in a sixth round.  “L.1” was a consensual resolution.  A credible regional security process was required to attain a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction and methods of delivery.  Such zones required that States commit themselves to open communication channels that acknowledged the threats facing regional partners.  All regional States’ right to exist must be recognized.  In the final analysis, that was an incremental process.  Israel believed that only through direct discussions between regional partners, based on consensus, could progress be achieved and a vision of the Middle East free of war, conflicts and all weapons of mass destruction be attained.

Turning to “L.46” she said Israel had voted in its favour in light of its longstanding support of the CTBT.  It had actively participated in all aspects of relevant activities and played a significant role in the preparatory commission.  Notwithstanding Israel’s favourable attitude towards the Treaty, it was unable to support preambular paragraph 6 and operative paragraph 1 of “L.46”.  Preambular paragraph 6 inserted references from the NPT and its Review Conference into a text dealing with the test-ban Treaty; that reference had no place in the resolution.  On operative paragraph 1, she said the completion of a verification regime was a prerequisite for the Treaty’s entry into force and was a major consideration for Israel’s ratification.  The Treaty’s verification regime needed to be robust, immune to abuse and allow each State signatory to protect its national security interests.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote on “L.55”, the representative of Spain said that the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty had been a major contribution to strengthening international peace and security, and was particularly important to African countries.  Spain had always leant support to the Treaty, but after carefully studying the invitation to sign the protocol, it had decided against it, owing to the absence in the Treaty of any guarantee or safeguard with regard to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as already the case across Spain’s national territory.  Additionally, his country already had a range of safeguards in place, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and its obligations went beyond what was stipulated in the African Treaty.  Producing or storing nuclear weapons in any part of Spanish territory was prohibited, and reaffirmed in 1996.  Spain had joined consensus with the issue since the resolution’s introduction in 1997, however, the delegation did not believe that it could join consensus on “L.55’s” operative paragraph 5.  Spain was working with other delegations to find better wording, and hoped that consultations would bear fruit and enable it to support the text next year.

Explaining Germany’s vote on “L.2”, the representative, speaking on behalf of a group that had abstained on the resolution, said that the countries represented were a diverse group, but were united in a common purpose to realize the goal of the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons, in a conclusive and pragmatic way.  As had been outlined in another joint statement, the grave humanitarian consequences of a detonation were not in dispute, however, progress needed to be realistic, and it was important for States to engage in an inclusive and genuine dialogue that respected all points of view.  That was not the case with the present draft resolution.  The slow pace of nuclear disarmament had been disappointing, he said, urging all delegations to engage in that important discourse, while respecting their distinctive national security situations.  His country and those he spoke for today stood ready to build constructively with others on the momentum built by the humanitarian conferences, or through other appropriate processes.  The international community should be realistic and aim to promote areas of agreement on the humanitarian consequences discourse, rather than accentuating the differences.

The representative of Bulgaria said that this year his country had not been in a position to support “L.15”.  He stressed the fundamental role attached to the NPT and deeply regretted that the 2015 NPT Review Conference had been unable to achieve consensus on an outcome document.  His delegation appreciated the reference to the NPT in “L.15’s” preambular portion, but the emphasis was only on one of its pillars.  In Bulgaria’s view, the NPT’s obligations should not be approached selectively.  Achieving progress on the Treaty’s shared goals required the early entry into force if the CTBT and the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material ban.  The Conference on Disarmament should start substantive work as soon as possible.  However, Bulgaria would not see a nuclear weapons convention as a first priority.  Rather, the Conference should aim at a comprehensive balanced programme of work.  It was decided that the Conference on Disarmament would be the single negotiating body in disarmament affairs, and it was unclear whether the “2018 conference” on a treaty banning nuclear weapons would contravene that decision.  His delegation believed in a comprehensive approach to make real progress, and while it shared the concerns on the humanitarian impact, it felt that banning nuclear weapons would not guarantee their elimination.

The representative of Brazil said that it had voted in favour of “L.26” because it shared the co-sponsors goal of completely eliminating nuclear weapons.  He acknowledged improvements to the text, including references now made to the humanitarian consequences of those weapons.  However, it could have been more ambitious and should have explicitly mentioned that nuclear-weapon States had not yet fully implemented their NPT article VI obligations, and that a treaty on fissile material should serve both disarmament and non-proliferation objectives by dealing with existing stocks.  It should also have mentioned arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, possibly in a legally binding instrument.  Brazil had abstained on operative paragraph 19, since its language should have reflected the NPT 2010 Review Conference, particularly action 30 from its outcome document.

On “L.46”, regarding the CTBT, he said Brazil had voted in its favour because it shared the view of the importance of the Treaty’s early entry into force.  However, he expressed frustration that the text did not reflect the hard-won consensus emerging from the article 14 conferences, which had called on nuclear-weapon States to refrain from developing new technologies and undertaking any action that would undermine the Treaty.  Vertical proliferation undermined the Treaty as did the nuclear-armed States’ further modernization of their arsenals contradicted the spirit and letter of the Treaty.  He expected that the issue would be adequately addressed in next year’s resolution, particularly because 2016 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Treaty’s opening for signature.

The representative of Finland said that it had voted in favour of “L.37” because it shared its main point by reflecting citizens’ genuine concern that as long as nuclear weapons existed, there was a risk of humanitarian costs.  The issue required a stronger sense of urgency, and the pivotal role of the NPT must be protected. It was important to see further progress and concrete measures, with the involvement of the nuclear-weapon States.  She also called for the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material ban in the Conference on Disarmament, without delay.  Finland had been unable to support “L.38”, regretting that it was of a divisive nature.  Sufficient political agreement on disarmament was needed before a legal instrument could be considered.  Many draft resolutions were overlapping and she suggested better coordination between co-sponsors in future.

The representative of Norway, explaining his delegation’s vote on “L.37”, said the country shared a common vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.  The Oslo Conference on the humanitarian impact of those weapons in 2013 and the two subsequent ones had succeeded in establishing a facts-based approach to that issue.  It had found that it was unlikely that any State or body could address the consequences of a nuclear-weapon detonation and that its effects would not be constrained by national borders.  Norway would continue to pursue a facts-based approach and appreciated the engagement of States possessing nuclear weapons.  Unfortunately, the emerging initiative was undermined by associating it with achieving a legal instrument banning nuclear weapons.  Such efforts would not bring States closer to a nuclear-weapon-free world.  The NPT must remain the cornerstone of disarmament and non-proliferation.  Only with constructive engagement by all States could the common goals be achieved.  Despite agreeing with some aspects of “L.37”, Norway had abstained owing to its structure and stronger language.

Explaining his position on “L.15” on behalf of a group of countries, the representative of New Zealand said they were pleased that the text included an explicit reference to the NPT, as well as to the solemn obligation of States parties undertaken in article VI.  Those countries strongly supported the resolution, as it was entirely consistent with the NPT, which was, at present, the only global treaty-based commitment to nuclear disarmament.  Any initiative aimed at advancing that process must give due prominence to the humanitarian consequences of any nuclear detonation, and her group was therefore pleased that “L.15” recognized that threat.  A comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons was not the sole option to maintain a world free of nuclear weapons, however, but the group remained disposed to any set of measures to achieve complete nuclear disarmament regardless of how those were elaborated.  To that end, the group remained willing to pursue negotiations in good faith.

Speaking in her national capacity on “L.20”, she said New Zealand had voted “no”.  Her delegation retained a deep commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world, and while “L.20” referenced a number of useful and practical measures, it was not clear why operative paragraph 2 singled out only the five nuclear-weapon States in its call for a reduction of the risks of unintentional and accidental use of nuclear weapons.  That was of course the responsibility of all State possessors, and that omission lay at the heart of the text’s credibility gap.  The draft failed to acknowledge the NPT as an important step towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

She said New Zealand had voted against “L.21” as in previous years.  Her country remained unconvinced at the assertion that a multilateral agreement, focusing simply on prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, would be an effective or useful contribution towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  In particular, her delegation did not believe in the resolution’s utility as a legal measure to move the world forward, and did not agree with the call in operative paragraph 1 for the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations on that issue, among other shortcomings.

Her delegation had voted in favour of “L.26”, she said, noting however, its disappointment at the low level of ambition in the text, which was weaker than that of previous years, because of the removal of references for States possessing nuclear weapons to remove them from high-alert situations, among other changes.  Notwithstanding the expanded title, referring to a renewed determination to totally eliminate nuclear weapons, there was little in that text that would help get the world to that conclusion.

On “L.38”, she said New Zealand had voted “yes”.  While her country had not endorsed the pledge itself, those that had done so were deeply concerned by the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and were motivated by the need to eliminate those weapons.  While New Zealand was supportive of the pledge, the initiative had not made clear the particular course that it would take.

On “L.40”, she said New Zealand was grateful to the changes made from earlier drafts and which had enabled her delegation to vote in favour.  It voted “yes” in recognition of agreement with the strong humanitarian consequence of nuclear weapons and the need for effective measures, including legally binding ones.  New Zealand would continue to call for the full implementation of the legal obligation in the NPT’s article VI, to advance the rules of international humanitarian law to prohibit the one remaining weapon of mass destruction that was not yet the subject of a comprehensive treaty.

The representative of Cuba said that yesterday the Committee had adopted three resolutions directly linked to the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, “L.37”, “L.38” and “L.40”.  Her delegation welcomed those drafts, noting the endorsement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean countries (CELAC) of the humanitarian pledge, convinced of the pressing need to completely eliminate nuclear weapons because of their catastrophic consequences.  Given that reality, it was necessary to make headway on multilateral negotiations to create a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons and establish a verification regime for their destruction.  There could be no justification for the existence today of more than 16,300 nuclear weapons, or for the billions of dollars spent on them, which could have been spent on sustainable development.

Her delegation supported “L.40” because it was timely and important for the General Assembly to declare nuclear weapons “inherently immoral”, given the indiscriminate impact of their use and the fact that they could annihilate all of humanity.  All States bore the ethical responsibility to act urgently to adopt efficient measures to prohibit and eliminate those weapons, which, as “L.40” set out, undermined collective security.  They increased the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, exacerbated international tensions, ramped up the risk of conflicts and made them more dangerous when they did occur.  There could be no justification to threaten the lives of human beings and the future well-being of the planet.  There was scientific proof of the risk of nuclear weapons, she said, adding that ethics and logic were on the side of those who defended the need for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his delegation had voted yes on “L.44”, because it remained unchanged in its support of the principled position of the Non-Aligned Movement on nuclear disarmament.  Precedence should be placed on non-proliferation, because the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute solution to the open threats those posed.  The States with the largest arsenals should take the lead in the disarmament process.  However, his delegation did not subscribe to the NPT Review Conference, as the country was not a party to the NPT.  However, his delegation supported the main objectives of “L.44” and had voted in favour of it as a whole.

On, “L.2”, he said his delegation had voted in its favour in expression of strong support for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and the importance of confidence-building measures.  While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea endorsed the text’s main objective, his delegation dissociated itself from general calls for universal adherence to the NPT.

He said that “L.37”, “L.38” and “L.40” expressed deep concern over the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, but his delegation had abstained from voting on those texts.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was compelled to possess a nuclear deterrent to safeguard its sovereignty and security, and was not a threat to any non-nuclear-weapon States, nor to the nuclear-weapon-free zones in several regions of the world.

His delegation had voted “no” on “L.46” as in previous years, he said, and his Government remained firm in its rejection of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2094 (2013), referred to in operative paragraph 5 of “L.46”.  Those Council resolutions were arbitrary, one-sided and represented a double standard, while that body remained silent regarding the annual nuclear-war exercises conducted by the United States in South Korea against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were a self-defence measure.  More attention should be paid to taking practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, rather than non-proliferation.

The representative of Switzerland, on behalf of Sweden and his own country, spoke in explanation of their vote on “L.38”.  They had not signed the Humanitarian Pledge in their national capacities, but had voted in favour of “L.38” because they shared the overall intent of resolution.  Also, they shared the need to present fact-based discussions and findings on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in relevant forums, as well as the need to advance disarmament.  He called on nuclear-weapon States to take concrete measures in that regard, including reducing the operative status of their nuclear weapons.  The group also shared the need to identify legal measures to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Looking at the body of disarmament law as a whole, other weapons of mass destruction were banned, but nuclear weapons were not.  In addition to implementing the NPT’s article VI, further legal instruments were needed towards that goal.  He endorsed the call contained in the resolution to pursue legally effective measures, and in so doing, not to see a nuclear ban treaty as the only available legal option for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Elaborating new legal instruments required the participation of nuclear-armed States, without stigmatization.

Speaking in Switzerland’s national capacity, he said the delegation had voted in favour of “L.2”, which promoted the universalization of the NPT in the Middle East.  Switzerland fully endorsed that goal and regretted that specific measures regarding a conference for establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone was not implemented as planned.  The zone’s establishment remained crucial, and, in that connection, Switzerland actively supported efforts contained in provisions of the NPT 2010 action plan.  Regarding specific elements in the resolution, he noted that in its operative paragraphs, only one of the dimensions linked to nuclear proliferation in Middle East was mentioned and only one State in the region was highlighted.  By voting in favour, Switzerland attached importance to universalizing the NPT.

He said that Switzerland did not support “L.21”, maintaining the same position as in previous years. A resolution aimed at the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons should contain appropriate reference to the importance of the international non-proliferation regime.  Humanitarian consequences conferences had underscored the likelihood that an accidental nuclear explosion would be catastrophic, and given the absence of a legally binding instrument on the matter, all nuclear-weapon States should take practical steps so their use of nuclear weapons became unthinkable.  They should renounce modernizing those weapons and work towards a reduction in their role in national doctrines.  Switzerland was willing to continue dialogue with the authors of the resolution towards its broader support.  He had similar concerns about “L.20” and also hoped that that resolution would evolve in a way that met his country’s concerns.

On “L.15”, he said that a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on disarmament in September 2013 proved to be of particular significance and marked strong support for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  Building on its momentum, Switzerland had voted in favour of the text for the past two years.  While confirming its positive vote this year, it remained convinced that, going forward, the high-level meeting process should be inclusive in pursuit of shared disarmament goals.  He supported more strenuous engagement by the text’s authors to overcome differences.  Disarmament could only become a reality if all nuclear- weapon States moved resolutely in that direction and committed fully, he said.

The representative of China, speaking in explanation of his vote on “L.37”, “L.38” and “L.40”, said his country attached great importance to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.  Since it came into possession of such weapons, it had advocated for their complete prohibition.  However, it believed that the objective of disarmament could not be realized in one go and should be pursued through an incremental approach by upholding the NPT and sticking to the consensus principle.  It had abstained from the three draft resolutions.

The representative of Sweden, speaking also on behalf of Switzerland, said they had abstained from voting on “L.40”.  Ethical principles and moral considerations played an important role in the development of international law, especially in international humanitarian law.  They welcomed debate on the ethnical aspects of nuclear weapons, as presented at Vienna conference, for example, but it was unfortunate that the text mixed international law and ethical principles.  It was important to protect international law as legally binding rules, not just a form of morality, lest that law be undermined.  A strength of international law was that it obliged states to be responsible for violations.

She went on to say that Sweden had voted in favour of “L.51”, on the follow-up to the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, even if it did not believe that an immediate discussion in the Conference on Disarmament was the only way forward.  Its votes on “L.15” and “L.38” had already been explained by New Zealand and Switzerland respectively.

On “L.1”, the representative of Iran said that the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had been an important objective and priority of Iran since 1974, when Iran first proposed it.  However, despite endorsement of that proposal by the General Assembly through its consensual resolution, no progress had been made so far.  The Israeli regime remained the only impediment to realizing the zone, as it continued to block all international and regional efforts to fulfil that goal.  In its latest obstructive act, it foiled the holding of a conference on the zone’s establishment, which had been mandated by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  It went without saying that the possession of nuclear weapons by the Israeli regime, coupled with its stark track record of committing international crimes, continued to pose the most serious threat to the security of the non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT in the region.

He said that the international community had no choice but to exert all efforts to compel the Israeli regime to verifiably eliminate all its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State, without precondition, and to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  In that regard, the co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East had a special responsibility and commitment, and a slackening of that commitment had emboldened Israel to flout international agreements.

On “L.26”, he said the main objective was the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  However, the assertion in preambular paragraph 8 that the fulfilment of nuclear disarmament obligations was conditional on enhanced international peace and security was not acceptable.  The draft specifically addressed certain regional issues related to the East Asia region, but ignored the need to equally address the proliferation risk of the unsafeguarded nuclear facilities of the Israeli regime as the only non-party to the NPT in the Middle East.  Nuclear proliferation was as dangerous in that region as it was in other parts of the world.  Regarding the work of the Conference on Disarmament, while the draft called for the immediate start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, it remained silent on the need to commence negotiations on nuclear disarmament in the Conference.  Iran had thus abstained on “L.26” as a whole.

On “L.46”, concerning the CTBT, he said Iran was signatory State, and it had voted in favour of the resolution as a whole.  However, Iran dissociated itself from the reference in the draft to Security Council resolutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation thanked delegations for their words of condolence conveyed to Russia and its people on the occasion of the airline crash of Saturday 31 October.  All 224 people on board had died, and the crash was the largest in Russian and Soviet aviation history.  He said the ability to sympathize was one of the most important human traits, and demonstrations of that ability gave the world hope that in no way were all positive human qualities lost and that together, humankind could build a home in the world, not through confrontation, but by building stability and equal and indivisible security for every single State without exception.

He said his delegation had voted against “L.26”, unlike in other years.  Since the renewed draft had appeared, his delegation had convincingly explained to the sponsors that it was not acceptable to change the previous and relatively balanced contents of the document.  Unfortunately, those arguments were not heeded, and as a result the resolution was deemed unacceptable by the Russian Federation.  First and foremost, this was because of the dangerous trend to warp historical facts.  Primarily, this related to events linked to the outcome of the Second World War.

The Russian Federation supported the statement from China made yesterday on that issue.  Together, those countries were sympathetic to the victims of the Nagasaki bombing, and that tragedy should never, ever happen again. But to ensure that, there was a need to always recall all of the horrors of that war, which included the death of millions.  Those deaths included 27 million citizen of the Soviet Union and the death of 35 million Chinese, as well as the nuclear bombing by the United States that was still affecting Japan.  That was a cynical attempt to use plutonium and then uranium nuclear bombs on civilians of another State:  Japan.  That bombing was not the conclusion of the Second World War, but rather the first step towards the Cold War.

The Russian Federation could not agree with what was being done on the “humanitarian area,” he said.  Those consequences were clear and meant the full destruction of civilians.  There needed to be no additional discussions on the matter.  Focusing on humanitarian aspects created an illusion that the world was moving towards and making progress, and it created unfounded expectations among people.  In actual fact, the international community was just putting to one side a solution to create those conditions to move towards full nuclear disarmament.  Furthermore, there had been a humanitarian discussion that did not really have any substance, and much resources were wasted which could have been earmarked and used for much better aims.  There was a need to recognize an absolute truth that any cut to the nuclear arsenals should be carried out in such a way as to strengthen international security and strategic ability, and not to do the contrary.  Progress towards disarmament and nuclear disarmament in particular was just not possible without comprehensibly taking into account every single factor that impacted strategic stability in the context of nuclear disarmament.  There needed to be a clear interlink between nuclear and full general disarmament, as was clearly stipulated in NPT Article VI.

Being guided by those principles, he said the Russian Federation was fully upholding its commitments under Article VI of the NPT, and was making clear its commitment to nuclear disarmament.  Russia urged all of those who strove, in deed as well as in word, to develop a comprehensive declaration on strengthening strategic stability to prepare real and practical steps to ensure equal and indivisible security and safety for all States.  The sooner that everyone recognized that there was no other path towards nuclear disarmament, the faster the international community could move towards the overall goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.

Action on Cluster 2, Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Turning to cluster 2, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution, introduced by Hungary, on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/70/L.12).  By its terms, the General Assembly would encourage States parties to provide appropriate information on their implementation of article X of the Convention and to offer assistance to ensure compliance with the Convention.

Also acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/C.1/70/L.19), by which the Assembly would urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the materials and technologies related to their manufacture, and their means of delivery.

Speaking in explanation of its vote on “L.19”, the representative of Pakistan said he shared the concern that terrorists and non-State actors could acquire materials for weapons of mass destruction, as well as the objectives of the resolution, but felt that it had room to improve.  The fear of materials acquisition must be evaluated and viewed in perspective; it was more likely that terrorists or non-State actors could acquire chemical and biological weapons and capabilities.  Their use of nuclear weapons was much less likely.  However, States should not lower their guard regarding the development and use of dirty bombs and should consider initiating negotiations on a radiological weapons convention.  To deny the means to possess weapons, States had enacted measures to prevent related technology falling into the hands of terrorists.

He said that to lend greater legitimacy to such international measures, Security Council resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1977 (2011) were designed to fill the gap in international law.  The best guarantee lay in the elimination of those weapons.  Faithful implementation of various treaties could address most of those threats, but as long as the process of chemical weapons disarmament proceeded at a slow pace, the possibility of their falling into terrorist hands persisted.  Threats posed by the dual nature of biotechnology were real and States should employ transparency and confidence-building measures.  A comprehensive strategy must be evolved to include depriving terrorist organizations of their capabilities, strengthening multilateral regimes, negotiating a treaty to fill gaps, and addressing the root causes of terrorism.

General Statements, Cluster 3, Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects)

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said that it had been a co-sponsor of General Assembly resolutions on preventing an arms race in outer space.  In 2004, it had undertaken a political commitment not to place weapons in outer space, which had received broad support.  This year, the number of co-sponsors of “L.47” on no-first placement of weapons in outer space had already increased to 39.  The draft was a call for dialogue.  A political commitment by all States not to place weapons in outer space would be a joint guarantee that no one would ever be bold enough to take or threaten to take that step.  He said that there was just one State that was against the joint efforts to prevent an outer space arms race, and the position of that State was well known and clear.  Its national doctrinal documents specifically stipulated a desire to dominate outer space, and contained provisions allowing for the use of weapons against other States.

He said that European partners and others who deemed themselves part of the Western democratic world were a different matter.  The prevention of an arms race in outer space was part of the domestic priority of many of those States.  He recalled agreement by the Russian Federation and European Union at the Moscow summit in 2005 on a road map for joint efforts to ensure international security, specifying actions to prevent an arms race in outer space.  He asked if it was possible that the European Union countries were subjected to such external pressure that they were not able to hold on to their sovereignty and that they now had to refrain from dialogue on the non-placement of weapons in outer space.  The arguments they had given — such as the difficulty in verifying the placement of weapons in space, the lack of a definition of outer space weapons or the lack of addressing anti-satellite weapons — were not serious.  He urged partners to demonstrate their sovereign resolve and responsibility, not just in words but in deeds, in favour of initiatives to prevent an arms race in outer space and support resolution “L.47”.  Everyone still had the opportunity to prevent the spread of those problems to outer space, which “we are not doing very well dealing with here on Earth”.

JUANA ELENA RAMOS (Cuba) said her delegation had co-sponsored the two draft resolutions in cluster 3, “L.3” and “L.47”.  It also supported “L.48” on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, although action on that draft would be taken later.  She said that all States had the right to explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes, and for the scientific and economic development of humanity as a whole.  An arms race in outer space would entail serious threats to international peace and security.  Its militarization was unacceptable, she said, voicing her country’s formal commitment to not be the first to place weapons of any kind in outer space.  Her country also supported a treaty prohibiting the use of force against satellites or other space-based equipment.  Any proposed code of conduct or similar measures for confidence-building should be unequivocal as to the placement of arms in space, as any ambiguity would be, not only counterproductive, but also dangerous.  She hoped that “L.3” and “L.47” would enjoy the support of all Member States.

Action on Cluster 3, Outer Space

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, and joining those giving condolences for the crash of the Russian plane in Egypt, the representative of Ukraine expressed her support for the non-placement of weapons in outer space.  However, the delegation would vote against “L.47” because of its lack of credibility.  Since 2014, the situation with the Russian Federation’s abusive policy had not changed, and 2015 brought to the stage attacks on Syria and continued war in the east of Ukraine.  By advertising the non-first-placement of weapons in outer space, the Russian Federation was drawing attention away from the crimes it was committing in the east of Ukraine.  The Russian draft detracted attention from the nuclear infrastructure that country was placing in Crimea and its military actions against Ukraine.  The draft resolution submitted by the aggressor had no right to exist.

Also explaining his position on “L.47” was the representative of Chile, who said that his delegation would vote in favour of the resolution because the country attached the greatest importance to the prevention of an outer space arms race.  A commitment to not be the first to place weapons in outer space could not be narrowly interpreted as to imply permission to threaten the peaceful uses of outer space in any other way.  There was a need to continue lobbying to prevent the placement of arms in outer space and “L.47” supported that aim.

The representative of China said that outer space was the common heritage of mankind, and the security of outer space was the common responsibility of the international community.  The resolutions in this cluster were the most consensual basis for forming outer space security.  Appropriate and workable transparency could enhance mutual confidence conducive to the maintenance of security in outer space.  Based on the above, China was co-sponsoring the three resolutions in the cluster, “L.3”, “L.47” and “L.48”, the last to be voted on later.  For the past 30 years, the General Assembly had successfully adopted a resolution on the topic with overwhelming support.  Resolution “L.47” drafted by China and Russia fully reflected the common call for the international community prevent the weaponization of outer space, and would significantly enhance transparency and confidence-building measures.  He hoped that even more countries would support it.

Also speaking before the vote, the representative of the United States said the delegation would vote “no” on “L.47”.  In considering the Russian Federation’s initiative, it took very seriously transparency and confidence-building measures as laid out in the group of governmental experts’ study, which had later been endorsed by the General Assembly in resolutions the United States had co-sponsored with Russia and China.  According to that study, transparency and confidence-building measures should be clear, practical and proven, and should be able to be effectively confirmed by other parties, independently or collectively.  In applying the Group’s consensus criteria, Russia’s initiative contained problems.  It did not define what constituted a weapon in outer space, and it was not possible to effectively determine what was meant by not being the first to place weapons in outer space.  It focused exclusively on space-based weapons and was silent on terrestrially-based anti-satellite weapons.

Further, he said, its proponents, notably the Russian Federation, did not explain how the initiative was consistent with the Group’s criteria or how it would enhance security in outer space when it was silent on anti-satellite weapons.  It failed to satisfy criteria for valid transparency and confidence-building measures, and was problematic and unlikely to be equitable. As it had done last year, the United States would again vote “no” now and would vote “no” again in the General Assembly.  The best way forward was sustained dialogue to develop tangible transparency and confidence-building measures in keeping with the Group’s report.

The representative of Luxembourg spoke on behalf of the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Iceland and Norway to explain their abstention from the vote on “L.47”.  They had a longstanding position on preserving the peaceful uses of outer space on an equitable basis and believed in the importance of developing initiatives for confidence and trust between space actors.  Noting the European Union code of conduct for outer space activities, he said that European Union member States had voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 69/31.  However, they were concerned that no-first placement in space did not adequately respond to the objective of strengthening trust between States.  The ambiguity of the idea of not being the first to place could be interpreted as implicitly encouraging States to pre-emptively develop capabilities to respond to other State’s first placement.  Also, the resolution did not define “weapon”, which could lead a State to inadvertently place an object in outer space that another State considered to be a weapon.  For example, a number of satellites could be construed as space weapons because they could be manoeuvred into other satellites.  He was also concerned about anti-satellite weapons.  Introducing a no-first placement pledge in this environment could lead to misunderstanding and could have the opposite effect than was desired.  It was more useful to address the behaviour in and use of outer space in order to prevent it from becoming an arena for conflict.

The representative of Mexico said he would support “L.47” and believed there was a pressing and important need to prevent an outer space arms race.  That was in line with the commitment to preserving outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes and with the pursuit of disarmament in broader terms.  In addition, all nuclear weapons needed to be eliminated regardless of their placement or grade.  Statements by one or many countries that they would not be the first to place weapons in space should not be considered a tacit statement about being the second.  The whole idea of the resolution was to prevent an outer space arms race.

Also explaining his support of “L.47” was the representative of Costa Rica, who spoke of the need to prevent an outer space arms race.  Its voting decision had its background in its determination to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes.  It was important that any State or group declaring it would not be the first to place weapons in outer space did not in any way open the door for nuclear weapons in outer space.  He hoped that that would be made clear in any such draft resolution.

The Committee then took action on the draft entitled Prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/70/L.3).  By its terms, the Assembly would call on all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race there.

That resolution was approved by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Israel, Palau, United States).

Speaking during voting, the representative of South Africa said his delegation would vote in favour of the text.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he had to press the button twice, and requested that his vote had been registered.

Committee Chair noted that the Russian Federation’s vote had been included.

Also speaking during voting, the representative of Nigeria said that the Secretariat was running the voting too quickly, and asked that the process be slowed down.

The Committee next approved a draft resolution entitled No first placement of weapons in outer space (document A/C.1/70/L.47), by which the Assembly would urge an early commencement on a draft treaty to prevent the placement of weapons in outer space, and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects, as submitted by China and the Russian Federation to the Conference on Disarmament.

That draft was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 4 against (Georgia, Israel, Ukraine, United States), with 47 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote, the representative of Australia, extending condolences to the victims of the crash of the Russian charter plane, said his delegation had abstained on “L.47”.  He noted the explanation of vote given by the European Union and of the United States, and went on to outline a few of his delegation’s concerns.  First, the draft did not adequately deal with what constituted a weapon in outer space, even though the space environment was one in which dual-use technologies abounded.  As such, it was particularly difficult to draw a line between a space object and space weapons.  Also, his delegation did not believe that a non-first placement pledge was adequately verifiable.  The resolution was solely focused on space-based weapons and did not address the threat of terrestrially-based weapons, such as anti-satellite missiles and lasers.  Given those concerns, his delegation had been unable to support the resolution and had abstained.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the Ukrainian delegation, thanked her for the condolences expressed and for those expressed by the whole of the Ukrainian people and the people in Kyiv and Moscow and other capitals throughout the world.  He expressed condolences to the brotherly Ukrainian people, given the numerous victims that the anti-State coup d’état had caused in February last year, which had been supported by the European Union and the United States and which had led to the transfer of power.  As a result, the ultra-nationalist forces had come to power in Kyiv, which had led to a bloody civil war.  Over the past year, there had been crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine.  Heavy weapons had been used, and air strikes had taken place against civilians of their own country.  It was only thanks to the joint efforts of the leaders of France, Germany and Russia that the barbaric actions of the Kyiv regime had been stopped.  He asked his colleague from Ukraine to stop using such terms as “aggression” regarding Russia, because it “just didn’t look serious”.  Russia had a great deal of love for its brotherly Ukrainian people and would never fight against Ukraine; it had never done so, and everyone was quite well aware of that.

Speaking in exercise of his right to reply, the representative of the United States said it supported the democratic forces in Ukraine and the Government.  The Russian Federation needed to stop undermining democracy in Ukraine and respect its sovereignty.

Also exercising her right of reply, the representative of Ukraine said that everyone understood the lies spoken by the Russian Federation.  She said that the best way for the Russian Federation to show its real love and brotherhood for Ukraine was to “just stop killing us”.  She asked them not to tell her who was killing in Ukraine because “I know who is killing me and who is looking in my eyes with a gun.”

For information media. Not an official record.