|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
18th Meeting (PM)
Momentum Gathering for Weaponization of Outer Space, Risk of Outer Space Arms Race
Rising, Warns China’s Delegation in First Committee, Urging Binding New Treaty
United States ’ New Policy Says All Nations Can Use Space for ‘Peaceful Purposes’,
Meaning Space Can Be Used for National, Homeland Security Activities, Speaker Says
Mounting concerns that advances in ballistic missile defence technology and recognition of the inherent instability — possible arms race in space and cascading proliferation on Earth — that could result from the pursuit of space weapons for security informed the debate in the Disarmament Committee today, which heard the introduction of two draft resolutions on the domain long hoped would be preserved for peaceful purposes to the benefit of all humankind.
The momentum for the weaponization of outer space was gathering and the risk of an outer space arms race on the rise, warned China’s representative, urging all countries to jointly shoulder the maintenance of security in outer space. Each year, for almost 30 years, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution to prevent an arms race in outer space and the majority of States supported further work in that area. The aim should be to conclude an international legally binding instrument on preventing the weaponization of outer space, with the Conference on Disarmament being the appropriate forum for discussions.
Together with Russia, he said, his country had submitted a working paper to the Conference on Disarmament to further clarify a draft treaty. It hoped that the Conference could start substantive work based on that and other documents toward an early conclusion of a treaty on outer space security.
The representative of the Russian Federation today tabled a draft resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities. In so doing, he explained that in order to achieve efficiency in the further work of the United Nations on those measures, it was best to transfer such work to a higher level represented by a group of governmental experts. That group, in accordance with a request made of the Secretary-General in the draft resolution to appoint it, should begin work in 2012.
He stressed that preventing the appearance of weapons in outer space was extremely important in order to assure predictability of the strategic situation in outer space, global stability and safety and security in general. The prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space remained one of the foreign policy priorities of his country. He said it was easier to ban the placement of weapons in outer space now than to sort out “a weapon mess” some time later.
The United States National Space Policy, released on 28 June 2010, emphasized that the country would adhere to several long-standing principles, including that right of all nations to explore and use space for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with international law, the speaker said. Consistent with that principle, “peaceful purposes” allowed for space to be used for national and homeland security activities.
As for the Russian Federation-Chinese draft treaty, she said that provided no grounds for her country to support establishing an ad hoc committee to negotiate any such treaty proposal at the Conference. The co-sponsors themselves, she said, had acknowledged that their proposal was unverifiable, acknowledging in informal discussions at the Conference in February 2007 that the proposed treaty did nothing to prevent the development, testing and deployment of terrestrially-based direct ascent satellite weapons, such as the one that intentionally destroyed a satellite in January 2007.
The United States could not support attempts to establish artificial linkages between pragmatic and voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures and fundamentally flawed proposals for armed control, such as the one for the proposed treaty, she asserted.
Explaining that his delegation supported the Russian-sponsored draft resolution, Egypt’s representative, together with the delegation of Sri Lanka, submitted a traditional First Committee text on prevention of an arms race in outer space, confirming his country’s firm belief in the importance of maintaining outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes. The draft emphasized the importance of strict compliance with existing agreements and reaffirmed that further measures should be examined in the search for effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space.
By its terms, the General Assembly would invite the Conference on Disarmament, as the sole multilateral forum with a primary mandate to negotiate multilateral agreements, in the context of a balanced and comprehensive work programme, to establish a working group on the issue as early as possible during its 2011 session to permit the close examination of several important initiatives, including the Russian Federation-Chinese draft treaty.
Weighing in during the debate, Brazil’s representative said the placement of weapons in outer space would have extremely serious consequences; it would deepen global insecurity and affect all countries, including those that had and those that did not have the technological capacity to launch orbital objects. It was in the best interest of the international community to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prevent the placing of any kind of weapon in outer space. The world today depended on space activities with an estimated 3,000 operational satellites, providing vital services in an intricate web of information and communications. Any interruption of those services as a result of weapons in space would cause a major global collapse.
Earlier, the Committee concluded its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction,hearing the introduction of a draft resolution by Poland’s representative on the Chemical Weapons Convention. All provisions of that treaty, he said, were core objectives of his country’s efforts in support of the total elimination of all chemical weapons. The resolution provided support for all four pillars of the Convention, including the irreversible destruction of all chemical weapons and their means of production. It also supported non-proliferation to ensure that new chemical weapons did not emerge, assistance and protection for States parties to defend themselves against the possible use of chemical weapons, and international cooperation to promote the peaceful uses of chemistry.
Chemical weapons were used 23 years ago, said Iran’s delegate, by the “Saddam” regime against Sardasht, Iran, where victims suffered and survivors developed long-term complications. Chemical weapons possessors must meet the 29 April 2012 deadline to destroy stocks, otherwise the raison d’être of the Chemical Weapons Convention would be seriously challenged. The world had witnessed the first domino effect of non-compliance when, immediately after one State party had said it could not meet the deadline, another major State party followed suit. The existence of chemical weapons was not accepted by the Convention. Unfortunately, the possessor States parties, by deciding to preserve part of their chemical weapons arsenals and failing to meet the deadline, were in fact trying to transform the only international disarmament treaty into a non-proliferation treaty.
Reaffirming that under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and their development, production and stockpiling were effectively prohibited under the Convention, a draft resolution tabled today by Hungary’s representative would have the General Assembly call on all signatory States that had not yet ratified to the Convention to do so without delay, and upon those States that had not signed it to become parties to it at an early date.
Also speaking during the thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction was the representative of the Netherlands.
Speaking during the debate on outer space (disarmament aspects) were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Kazakhstan, Canada, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus and Iran.
The representatives of Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea exercised their rights of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 October, to begin taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic debates on other weapons of mass destruction and on outer space (disarmament aspects of) and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions and decisions.
Thematic Debate on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
WITOLD SOBKÓW (Poland) introduced a draft resolution (document A/C.1/65/L.23) on the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention), saying that support for the full and effective implementation of all provisions of that Convention and its universality were core objectives of his country’s efforts in support of the total elimination of those weapons.
He said that the resolution was unique and provided support for all the four pillars of the Convention, the first being the irreversible destruction of all chemical weapons and their means of production. The second was non-proliferation, aimed at ensuring that new chemical weapons did not emerge. The third pillar was assistance and protection for States parties to defend themselves against the possible use of chemical weapons, and the fourth was international cooperation to promote the peaceful uses of chemistry. By adopting the resolution by consensus every year, the United Nations had expressed its unequivocal support for the prohibition of chemical weapons and for the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The text of this year’s draft was well balanced, he went on. The goal of the sponsors was to ensure, as in previous years, a consensus approval, which was crucial in providing the unequivocal support of the United Nations for the implementation of the Convention. Poland was the text’s sole sponsor, as in previous years. That sole sponsorship helped to ensure both regional and political balance, as well as the broad support of all Member States for the resolution. Poland appealed for the approval of the draft without a vote.
SZABOLCS NAGY ( Hungary), introducing the draft resolution on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) (document A/C.1/65/L.20), said that the text had only been slightly updated.
The draft resolution would have the General Assembly call on all signatory States that had not yet ratified to the Convention to do so without delay, and upon those States that had not signed it to become parties to it at an early date. It would have the Assembly note with satisfaction that the Sixth Review Conference had agreed on several measures to update the mechanism for the transmission of information in the framework of the confidence-building measures.
By further terms of the text, the Assembly would urge States parties to work closely with the Implementation Support Unit in fulfilling its mandate, in accordance with the decision of the Sixth Review Conference. It would request the Secretary-General to render his assistance to the depositary Governments of the Convention and to provide those services necessary for implementing the decisions and recommendations of the Review Conferences.
The delegate noted that the text did not include elements on the work done by Member States during the intersessional period. Hungary had been heartened by the great interest shown by Member States during consultations on the draft. His country was hopeful that there was recognition of the catastrophe that any use of biological weapons would cause. It remained the sole sponsor of the resolution and, as in the past, looked forward to its approval by consensus.
LAURA KENNEDY ( United States) said that her country continued to make progress in arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament to advance President Barack Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons. As it worked to end nuclear dangers, it was also very focused on actions to prevent chemical and biological agents and toxins from ever being used again as weapons by terrorists or States. Such weapons continued to pose a serious risk to the achievement of international peace and security, and the Administration remained firmly committed to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, as those contributed significantly to the efforts of her country to strengthen global arms control and non-proliferation in those areas.
She said her country recognized that destroying existing chemical weapons was one of the fundamental goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and her country was fully committed to that goal. It had continued to make substantial progress towards the complete destruction of its chemical weapons. It had recently completed destruction of 80 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpile. At present, it was on pace to reach the 90 per cent mark by April 2012 and it continued to examine all options to accelerate the destruction of the remaining 10 per cent in a manner that was safe and environmentally sound. That work was difficult, dangerous and much more technically complex and time-consuming than previously envisioned, but the country remained committed to complete and verifiable destruction.
The United States strategy on biological weapons rested on the main principle of the Biological Weapons Convention that the use of biological weapons was “repugnant to the conscience of mankind”, she stated. The biological weapons threat had evolved, and life sciences knowledge and materials, intended for peaceful purposes, but with the potential for misuse, were more widely distributed and accessible than ever. The threat today came, not only from State-level programmes, but also from non-State actors. The Biological Weapons Convention needed to be approached in that broader context. The intersessional Biological Weapons Convention meetings of the last few years had been an important step in that direction.
She urged Governments to seize the opportunity presented by the Convention’s 2011 Review Conference to build upon those successes through a reinvigorated, comprehensive work programme to promote real action to counter the biological weapons threat. Her country believed that future work under the Convention should address the three critical issues of building global capacity to combat infectious diseases, regardless of cause; addressing the full range of today’s and tomorrow’s biological threats, including bioterrorism; and building confidence that States parties were effectively implementing the provisions of the Convention and complying with their obligations.
REZA NAJAFI ( Iran) said chemical weapons were used 23 years ago by the “Saddam” regime against Sardasht, Iran, where victims suffered and survivors developed long-term complications. That day had been marked to commemorate the National Day for the Campaign against Chemical and Biological Weapons. Chemical weapons possessors must meet the 29 April 2012 deadline to destroy stocks, otherwise the raison d’être of the Chemical Weapons Convention would be seriously challenged. The world had witnessed the first domino effect of non-compliance when, immediately after one State party had said it could not meet the deadline, another major State party followed suit. The existence of chemical weapons was not accepted by the Convention. Unfortunately, the possessor States parties, by deciding to preserve part of their chemical weapons arsenals and failing to meet the deadline, were in fact trying to transform the only international disarmament treaty into a non-proliferation treaty.
He said that undue restrictions of trade in chemicals, equipment and technologies that defied the letter and spirit of the Convention would not foster international peace and security or reach the goal of universality. While some States not party to the Convention, with well-known weapons of mass destruction programmes, had free access to technologies and materials, some other States parties were subjected to restrictions and denials that hampered their scientific, technological and economic developments.
Turning to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, he said regrettably, after more than three decades since the instrument’s entry into force, its universality had not yet been achieved. He called on States parties to remain committed to their obligations not to transfer equipment, materials and scientific and technological information to non-States parties. Introducing disincentives for non-States parties would facilitate the realization of the universality of the Convention. Iran was concerned about the major loophole, namely that the Convention did not explicitly prohibit the use of biological weapons. He called on all States that maintained reservations against the protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous and other gases to withdraw them and to support the draft resolution, tabled this year, as the heading of measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol (document A/C.1/65/L.12).
PAUL VAN DEN IJSSEL ( Netherlands) called upon those States that had not joined the Conventions on chemical and biological weapons to do so without delay. Next year would be an important year for the Biological Weapons Convention. The Seventh Review Conference would provide a crucial opportunity to further strengthen the treaty and its implementation. It was encouraging that the preparations for that review had already started. A successful outcome depended on timely and inclusive preparations. The Netherlands looked forward to working intensively with all States parties leading up to the Review Conference, he said.
Thematic Debate on Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects of)
JEAN LINT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the growing number of actors and rapid development of activities in outer space reinforced the long-standing position of the Union and its member States in favour of the enhancement of the multilateral framework for the preservation of a peaceful, safe and secure environment in outer space. The Union stressed that the prevention of an arms race in outer space and the need to prevent outer space from becoming an area of conflict were essential conditions for the strengthening of strategic stability. It was fully committed to strengthening security activities in outer space that contributed to the development and security of States. Towards that goal, it aimed to promote international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful activities. It was particularly sensitive to the issue of safety of space systems, and urged all States to take necessary measures and actions aiming at mitigating the creation of space debris.
He said that the European Union promoted the elaboration of an international and voluntary set of guidelines, a tool that would strengthen the safety, security and predictability of all space activities. Such guidelines should, among other things, limit or minimize harmful interference, collisions or accidents in outer space, as well as the creation of space debris. In recent years, the Union had been elaborating a draft code of conduct for outer space activities. In recent months, it had conducted extensive consultations with space-faring States and, on the basis of views expressed by partners, it had produced a revised version of the draft code, which it intended to discuss with United Nations Member States on the margins of the current session of the First Committee.
Continuing, he said that that draft code was based on the three principles of freedom of all to use outer space for peaceful purposes; preservation of the security and integrity of space objects in orbit; and due consideration for the legitimate security and defence needs of States. The proposed draft foresaw that the code would be applicable to all outer space activities conducted by all States or non-governmental entities. As it would be voluntary and open to all States, it would lay down the basic rules to be observed by space-faring nations in both civil and military activities, but it would not include any provisions concerning the placement of weapons in outer space. The purpose of the code was not to duplicate or compete with initiatives already dealing with that specific issue.
YADIRA LEDESMA (Cuba) said legal instruments pursuing the objective of preventing an outer space arms race, namely the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1979, had played a positive function in the promotion of the peaceful uses of outer space, and in regulating activities and prohibiting the deployment of weapons of mass destruction and certain military activities in outer space. However, the current system alone did not guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race and there was an urgent need for the consolidation and reinforcement of that system, and for strict compliance with existing bilateral and multilateral agreements. New measures for establishing effective and verifiable agreements should be reviewed.
She said Cuba supported efforts made in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly and in the Conference on Disarmament, where she endorsed the establishment of an ad hoc committee to play the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement on preventing an outer space arms race. Transparency and confidence-building measures were no substitute for arms control and disarmament measures, she said.
Some measures on outer space could include the following: convening an international conference to review the strict compliance with existing agreements on the peaceful uses of outer space; reviewing the current legal system governing activities in outer space; concluding multilateral agreements for information exchanges related to outer space uses; and developing international cooperation mechanisms that guaranteed all countries equal access to the benefits and peaceful uses of outer space. Further she suggested exchanging information on States’ main policy directions on outer space, inviting observers to launches of space objects on a voluntary basis, demonstrating space technologies and rockets, and providing notification of scheduled launches of space vehicles. In addition, she proposed consultations to clarify information about programmes for research and other uses of outer space, as well as on ambiguous situations and other matters of concern, and to examine the implementation of agreed transparency and confidence-building measures for space-based activities.
ISRAIL TILEGEN ( Kazakhstan) said the growing number of countries involved in and dependent on space programmes should be adequately monitored to avoid catastrophic consequences concerning arms in outer space. He called for the peaceful exploration of space, so as to channel its results constructively to solve global problems through the improved use of energy and information, natural resource management, environmental conservation and avoidance or mitigation of natural disasters. Security in outer space must remain one of the central issues of the Conference on Disarmament.
He said that placing weapons in outer space would result in an advantage for the few, generating walls of distrust and suspicion, which were only now being broken down with regard to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. More than 130 countries possessed sophisticated space programmes, or were developing them, using information from space assets for their own defence. Member States should ensure that such dangerous weapons systems did not undermine the existing structure of arms limitation agreements, particularly in the nuclear sphere.
Kazakhstan had no intention of pursuing the development of space weapons or deploying them in outer space, he said. The country was developing a national civilian space programme to facilitate its entry into the world market of space services and its access to the latest technologies within the norms of international collective security.
In 2005, Kazakhstan had acceded to the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and was aspiring to join the Missile Technology Control Regime. He called on Member States to exercise greater political vision, commitment and consensus to overcome challenges of new emerging threats with more effective and innovative strategies. He supported the draft resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, asserting that wide support for the text would be the critical first step towards a universal agreement to prevent the militarization of outer space.
All States must follow the Russian Federation’s move of the non-deployment of weapons in outer space, he stressed. Such restraint on the part of each individual State could significantly enhance collective collaboration and ward off the possibilities of an arms race in outer space. “Space must remain a sphere of cooperation, free from weapons, so that humankind can continue to use it for peaceful development and advancement,” he said.
VICTOR L. VASILIEV ( Russian Federation) said that the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space remained one of the foreign policy priorities of his country. In 2008 at the Conference on Disarmament, together with China, it had put forward a draft international treaty, out of a “deep understanding that it was easier to ban now the placement of weapons in outer space than to sort out a weapon mess some time later”. Preventing the appearance of weapons in outer space was extremely important from the point of view of assuring predictability of the strategic situation in outer space, global stability and safety and security in general.
He said that since the introduction of that draft treaty, a great amount of work had been done to clarify its basic powers. The international community had come to a better understanding of the gravity of the possible negative consequences that the placement of weapons in outer space could have and had become seized of the importance of meeting the treaty’s objectives. With the Conference on Disarmament unable to adopt a programme of work, his country considered it important to move forward towards the treaty’s objective, stage-by-stage. At the current stage, it was extremely important to assure the adoption of at least those measures that required and demonstrated their urgency on which consensus had already been forged. Creation of an atmosphere of transparency and confidence in outer space activities were badly needed.
He then introduced a draft resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (document A/C.1/65/L.38), co-authored by 60 States, saying that, in preparing it, the sponsors had proceeded from the understanding of the importance of the topical issue of security in outer space, as well as from the favourable conditions resulting from the adoption of that resolution without a vote during previous General Assembly session. They believed that in order to achieve efficiency in the further work of the United Nations on those measures, it was best that such work be transferred to a higher level represented by a group of governmental experts. Such a group could study and further develop the national reports that had been forwarded to the United Nations in implementation of previous resolutions, as well as prepare a report containing recommendations on the implementation of those measures to the Secretary-General. Such a group, in accordance with the draft resolution, should begin work in 2012.
The Russian Federation welcomed the adjustments introduced by the United States Administration to its outer space policy, in particular, the intention to develop transparency and confidence-building measures at bilateral and multilateral levels to provide for a responsible attitude regarding any activity in outer space, he added.
The draft resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (document A/C.1/65/L.38) would have the Assembly take note of the final report of the Secretary-General containing concrete proposals from Member States on international outer space transparency and confidence-building measures.
Also by the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to establish on the basis of equitable geographical distribution a group of governmental experts to conduct a study commencing in 2012 on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures making use of the relevant reports of the Secretary-General, including the report submitted to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session and without prejudice to the substantive discussions on the prevention of an arms race in outer space within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament, and to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session a report containing in its annex the study of governmental experts.
KHALED SHAMAA (Egypt) confirmed his country’s firm belief in the importance of maintaining outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes and said that, traditionally and along with Sri Lanka, it had presented a draft resolution on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space and regularly supported the resolution on Transparency and Confidence-building measures in outer space activities submitted by the Russian Federation. The draft resolution on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (document A/C.1/65/L.2), being introduced by his country this year, was similar in substance to the resolution adopted by the General Assembly last year, except for technical updates. A significant number of States had sponsored it and it remained open for further co-sponsorships.
The draft, he said, emphasized the importance of strict compliance with existing agreements, including bilateral agreements, related to outer space and with the legal regime governing the use of outer space. It reaffirmed that further measures should be examined in the search for effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements in order to prevent an arms race in outer space, including the weaponization of outer space. The Conference on Disarmament, as the sole multilateral forum with a primary mandate to negotiate multilateral agreements, would once again be invited, in the context of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work, to establish a working group on the issue as early as possible during its 2011 session. That would permit the close examination of a number of important initiatives that had been put forward within the framework of the Conference, including the Russian Federation-Chinese draft treaty on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects.
MARC DE BELLEFEUILLE (Canada) said the Conference on Disarmament was the principal body tasked with the responsibility of preventing an arms race in outer space, and his country was disappointed substantive work had not been initiated this year, especially since security issues in outer space grew more complicated with each passing year. Given that space applications played a critical role in daily life, with growing numbers of satellites and debris, sustainable use of outer space was clearly a common concern and responsibility.
He said Canada supported practical initiatives that increased transparency, built confidence and helped to ensure the sustainable use of outer space. Long-term sustainability would be jeopardized if the security dimensions of outer space were not fully addressed. In that regard, the Conference on Disarmament had a very important mandate. Given that those security dimensions remained unaddressed, the international community must act. Canada had proposed a call for a ban on the placement of weapons in outer space, the use of satellites as weapons and of the testing and use of weapons on satellites. He urged member delegations to consider that proposal and encouraged its discussion in appropriate forums.
“If we are unable to ensure that space will be secure from physical threats, then conflict could well imperil the long-term and sustainable use of outer space,” he said. “Any physical conflict in space might well render outer space unusable to humankind for years.”
WANG QUN ( China) said space technology and industry had constituted an essential part of China’s strategy for its development in many areas, including social development and the advancement of science and technology. China had signed bilateral agreements with 46 countries on space development and had actively participated in United Nations meetings on the subject. However, the momentum for the weaponization of outer space was gathering and the risk of an outer space arms race was on the rise. All countries were stakeholders in that regard, and all countries should jointly shoulder the maintenance of security in outer space.
He noted that each year, for almost 30 years, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution to prevent an arms race in outer space. The majority of States supported further work in that area. China was the co-sponsor for the draft resolution on the subject this year as well. The aim should be to conclude an international legally binding instrument on preventing the weaponization of outer space, with the Conference on Disarmament being the appropriate forum for discussions. China and Russia had jointly submitted to the Conference on Disarmament a working paper CD/1872 to further clarify a draft treaty. He hoped the Conference could start substantive work, based on this and other documents, which would create an early conclusion to a treaty on outer space security.
Appropriate and feasible transparency and confidence-building measures would enhance trust, he said. As voluntary measures, those should supplement, and not substitute, for a legally binding instrument on outer space. China was willing to work with all countries to maintain lasting peace and security in outer space.
LUIZ FELIPE DE MACEDO SOARES ( Brazil) said that the placement of weapons in outer space would have extremely serious consequences and would deepen global insecurity and affect all countries, including those that had and those that did not have the technological capacity to launch orbital objects. The world today depended on space activities. An estimated 3,000 satellites were operational, providing vital services in an intricate web of information and communications. The interruption of such satellite services as a result of weapons in space would cause a major global collapse.
He said his country believed that it was in the best interest of the international community to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prevent the placing of any kind of weapon in outer space. Apart from the evidence that there was enough technology today to create and launch space weapons, the confirmation that such an instrument was needed was the fact that an agreement was reached to inscribe it as one of the four core issues on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. More than 30 years ago, the Conference had been called upon by the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament to consider the issue of prevention of an arms race in outer space. Lack of consensus to move forward on that item in the Conference had stimulated delegations to put proposals on the table. Brazil understood that lack of agreement on a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space had created the temptation to explore intermediate alternatives. Efforts in the Conference to advance towards negotiations should be focused on a legal instrument.
Regarding the draft code of conduct on outer space activities being developed by the European Union, he noted that it dealt with the peaceful uses of outer space in broad guidelines aimed at many areas of satellite operations. Its ample form would not suffice to fully cover the complexities of space security which required a specific instrument. By not being legally binding, compliance was based solely on the goodwill of States. In the specific area of disarmament, codes of conduct would not suffice as effective arrangements because they lacked important features needed in an international security instrument, besides being elaborated in a restricted forum that was not open to all States.
Having coordinated the four informal meetings held by the Conference on Disarmament on the agenda item on prevention of an arms race in outer space during the 2010 session, Brazil believed that the Conference would benefit from the establishment of a subsidiary body to allow direct discussions in order to advance on the issue. It expected the Conference to adopt its work programme early next year with the inclusion of a working group on prevention of an arms race in outer space.
KIM YONG JO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the twenty-first century as an era of space science and the peaceful use of outer space was the unanimous desire of the international community. Regrettably, the arms race was being extended to outer space, constituting a serious challenge to the peace and security of mankind. Today, an arms race in outer space was running to an irreversible course, posing serious concern for the international community. As was well known, the United States, after withdrawing unilaterally from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in the early 2000s, had been investing its efforts to establish a missile defence system with outer space elements. It was none other than that country that either ignored or opposed initiatives to ensure transparency in space activities and to prohibit an arms race in outer space, which had been put on the agenda of the General Assembly and the Conference on Disarmament.
The missile defence system that it had been pursuing over recent years under the pretext of the so-called “threats from the ballistic missiles of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran” constituted a typical example. The aim of the United States to “network the whole world” with the missile defence system was to control its strategic rivalries. The so-called threats were no more than excuses to conceal its real aim. The United States was a major source for igniting an arms race in outer space.
Meanwhile, Japan, in 2008, replaced its domestic law on prevention of militarization of the outer space with a new law to justify its military use of space, he continued. Following enactment of the new law, that country, with the United States, wasted no time in moving towards co-development of a missile defence system in North-east Asia. The attempt by Japan to launch an early warning satellite to put neighbouring countries under surveillance, trying to connect it with the missile defence system, was dangerous. Those actions showed that Japan was increasing its pre-emptive strike capacity against other countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by using outer space.
Ms. KENNEDY ( United States) said that the legacy of success in space and its transformation presented challenges. When the space age began, the opportunities to use space were limited to only a few nations and the impact of irresponsible or unintentional behaviours was limited. Now, there existed a world where the benefits of space permeated almost every facet of life and the consequences of irresponsible behaviours were far greater for all. The growth and evolution of the global economy had ushered in an ever-increasing number of nations and organizations using space. The interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world’s growing dependence on them meant that irresponsible space acts could have damaging consequences for all. For example, decades of space activity had littered Earth’s orbit with debris. As the world’s space nations continued to increase activities in space, the chance for a collision between space objects increased correspondingly. As a leading space-faring nation, the United States was committed to addressing those challenges, but it could not be the responsibility of only one State. All nations had the right to use and explore space, but with that right also came responsibility. All nations needed to work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve that right for the benefit of future generations.
She said that the spirit of cooperation had been reflected in the National Space Policy of the United States, which was released on 28 June. That policy emphasized that the country would adhere to several long-standing principles, which it proposed that other nations also recognize and adhere to. They included that it was in the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust; that countries consider the sustainability, stability and free access to and use of space as vital to their national interest; and that all nations had the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with international law. Consistent with that principle, “peaceful purposes” allowed for space to be used for national and homeland security activities.
In his directive on National Space Policy, President Obama had also provided specific goals for the United Sates space programme to promote the spirit of cooperation, she stated. It would build upon its current efforts in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and with intergovernmental organizations and the private sector to address the growing problem of orbital debris. Furthermore, it would seek to improve shared awareness of actions in space that were contrary to its responsible use and to promote best practices for long–term sustainability of the space environment. It would also pursue pragmatic bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to mitigate the risk of mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust.
The United States could not support attempts to establish artificial linkages between pragmatic and voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures with fundamentally flawed proposals for arms control, such as that for a prevention of placement of weapons in outer space treaty, she went on. After conducting a comprehensive review of the space arms control options, her country had reaffirmed its analysis and conclusion, noted in a submission made to the Conference on Disarmament in August 2008, that the Russian Federation-Chinese draft treaty provided no grounds for her country to support establishing an ad hoc committee to negotiate any such treaty proposal at the Conference. The co-sponsors themselves acknowledged that their proposal was unverifiable. Furthermore, as one of them had acknowledged in informal discussions at the Conference in February 2007, the proposed treaty did nothing to prevent the development, testing and deployment of terrestrially-based direct ascent satellite weapons, such as the one that intentionally destroyed a satellite in January 2007. That action had created long-lived debris, which would continue to pose dangers to space flight safety well into the twenty-first century.
She added that she disagreed with the assertions made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in his statement earlier.
NIKOLAI OVSYANKO ( Belarus) said preventing an outer space arms race was critically important and the growing number of countries developing space programmes only highlighted the need for an international instrument covering that field. He supported the Russia and China paper on the subject, which had been presented to the Conference on Disarmament in 2008. The international community should do its utmost to develop a treaty, since the presence of weapons in space could become a reality. A declaration of a moratorium of any weapons in space would prevent the beginning of such an arms race.
Mr. NAJAFI ( Iran) emphasized that outer space was a heritage shared by all humankind and must be explored and utilized “exclusively for peaceful purposes”. He expressed his opposition to the monopolization of space and its technology by only a few countries. Iran, under strict restriction and deprived of any assistance, had been forced to develop its own “indigenous” space technology, in order to launch its own satellite. In light of the high costs and technological skills needed, international cooperation was essential so that the monopolization of outer space would not be allowed to occur.
Turning to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he expressed concerns about the development of projects under the pretext of defence systems, as well as of the pursuit of advanced military technology that could be deployed in outer space. That would contribute to the further erosion of disarmament and international security. The matter required “greater urgency” as existing legal instruments were inadequate to deter an outer space arms race. There was an attempt to seek military and strategic superiority in outer space, which would only lead to its weaponization in the future. Anti-missile system development by certain States, under the pretext of the “so-called missiles threat”, was only aiming to gain superiority over other existing and emerging Powers. International disarmament experts found it difficult to believe that the billions of dollars spent for the development of an anti-missile system, or so-called “Star Wars”, which had its origin in the 1980s, was purely defensive against the missile programmes of a couple of other countries, he said.
Rights of reply
The representative of Japan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his country’s defensive programme was defensive in nature and its outer space activities were only for peaceful purposes.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the United States had pursued projects with allies aimed at outer space. When the United States had invaded Iraq with its allies, more than 80 per cent of its information had been transmitted through its objects in outer space.
He said that Japan’s defence ministries, on 16 January 2009, had made public their policy on the development and use of outer space. The policy dealt with developing radio wave technology and an early warning satellite system. That meant that Japan had entered into a new practical phase of “space militarization”. Japan had thrown away the peaceful use of outer space, he said. One link in the whole chain of such moves had been the final adoption of a policy in Japan that allowed use of outer space for defence purposes.
The representative of Japan, taking the floor again in exercise of the right of reply, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s statement was based on misunderstanding. Japan’s programme was only for peaceful purposes.
* *** *For information media • not an official record