US, Japan demand nuclear weapons ban in space

The United States and Japan have put forward a UN Security Council resolution urging all nations to refrain from deploying or developing nuclear weapons in space, as announced by the US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She emphasized that placing nuclear weapons in Earth’s orbit would be unprecedented, perilous, and unacceptable.

This announcement comes in the wake of last month’s acknowledgment from the White House regarding Russia’s acquisition of concerning anti-satellite weapon capabilities, although they are not yet operational. Russian President Vladimir Putin later stated that Moscow has no plans to station nuclear weapons in space, asserting that the country’s space capabilities are akin to those of the US.

The Outer Space Treaty, ratified by approximately 114 countries including the US and Russia, explicitly prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit, as well as the positioning of weapons in outer space in any form.

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Yoko Kamikawa, emphasized the importance of upholding the prohibition on placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit, even amid the confrontational atmosphere of the Cold War. Thomas-Greenfield stressed the necessity for all treaty signatories to commit to banning nuclear and other destructive weapons, urging non-member states to promptly accede to the treaty.

Furthermore, Thomas-Greenfield reiterated the US’s willingness to engage with Russia and China on bilateral arms control matters without any prerequisites. The White House had previously disclosed the monitoring of a new Russian anti-satellite weapon in February, emphasizing that it did not pose an immediate threat to safety but violated the Outer Space Treaty.

However, Russia’s deputy US ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, condemned the proposed resolution from the US and Japan, dismissing it as a propaganda ploy and criticizing its detachment from reality. He argued that the text lacked input from experts and had not been deliberated at specialized international forums such as the UN Conference on Disarmament or the UN Committee on Outer Space.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres briefed the council, highlighting that geopolitical tensions and distrust have heightened the risk of nuclear warfare to levels unseen in decades. He referenced the movie “Oppenheimer,” which depicted the sobering reality of nuclear devastation, warning that humanity cannot afford a repeat of such catastrophic events.

Additionally, the UN Secretary-General underscored the escalating danger of nuclear warfare, emphasizing the urgent need for global cooperation and adherence to disarmament treaties. He emphasized that the movie “Oppenheimer” vividly portrayed the devastating consequences of nuclear conflict, serving as a stark reminder of the imperative to prevent such a scenario.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Russia’s deputy US ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, dismissed the proposed resolution as a political maneuver by Washington, criticizing its alleged lack of consultation and engagement with relevant international bodies. This stance reflects the ongoing geopolitical tensions surrounding arms control issues and the divergent perspectives among key stakeholders.

As discussions continue within the UN Security Council, the international community faces the challenge of balancing strategic interests with the imperative of safeguarding outer space as a peaceful domain. The outcome of these deliberations will not only shape the future of space governance but also impact global security dynamics in an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape.

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