Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space

In an effort to stimulate work in the Conference on Disarmament on the subject, the Russian Federation and China submitted, on 27 June, the last day of the second part of the 2002 session, a joint Working Paper to the Conference on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space, containing the basic elements for a future international legal agreement on the issue.

China believed that only a treaty-based prohibition of the deployment of weapons in outer space and the prevention of the threat or use of force against outer space objects could eliminate “the emerging threat of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space and would ensure the security for outer space assets of all countries.”

Russia considered that developments in the world during the last few years had only increased the importance of preventing an arms race in outer space. It supported the urgent adoption of all measures possible to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space, rather than subsequently “waste huge efforts and resources to have it de-weaponized”.

For its part, the United States continued to believe that the existing outer space regime was sufficient and saw no need for new outer-space arms-control agreements. It reiterated that it opposed the idea of negotiating a new outer space treaty, but it was willing to support the establishment of an ad hoc committee on outer space to conduct broad-ranging discussions on the issue, at the same time as the Conference conducted active and ongoing negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

Statements welcoming or supporting the joint document were made by representatives from Algeria, Belarus, Cuba, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe, while the New Agenda countries (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden) maintained their commitment to pursuing their initiative aimed at securing a world free of nuclear weapons and would do so in all appropriate fora, noting that the CD had the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects.

Conference on Disarmament concludes second session

At that same meeting, the President of the Conference, Volker Heinsberg of Germany, beginning his month-long term, suggested that the Conference continue its efforts to adopt a programme of work on the basis of the agenda agreed upon by all Members at the start of the 2002 session. He would be focusing the attention of the Conference on four issues of concern— nuclear disarmament; a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices; prevention of an arms race in outer space; and effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Referring to recent news reports about the threat that terrorists might develop and use a “dirty bomb” (the dissemination of radiation using conventional explosives), Mr. Heinsberg also stressed that the Conference should seize the time to tackle once again the long-neglected issue of radiological weapons.

The Conference will begin its third part of this year’s session on Thursday, 1 August 2002, at 10 a.m. when it will meet in plenary.