As in 2002, missile-related issues, in particular the proliferation of long-range ballistic missiles and the efforts by the United States to build a missile defence, remained an area of concern during the year. Testing and development of ballistic missiles continued in many regions.
The United States reaffirmed, in a statement on its National Policy on Ballistic Missile Defence on 20 May, its plan to start deployment of missile defence capabilities in 2004 and that those capabilities would serve as a starting point for fielding improved and expanded missile defence capabilities later. In addition, it stated that it would not have a final, fixed missile defence architecture, but deploy an initial set of capabilities that would evolve to meet changing threats and technological developments. It also announced that the distinction between "national" and "theatre" missile defences had been eliminated as it was seen as outmoded and largely a product of the ABM Treaty. In a separate development, and in response to perceived threats in the region, Australia announced, on 4 December, that it had in principle decided to join the United States missile defence system, and, on 19 December, the Government of Japan announced that it would build a missile defence system based on technology from the United States.
The defence ministers of NATO announced on 12 June that the organization had secured funding for a new missile defence feasibility study, to be launched in October and completed in 2005. The study will examine alternatives for protecting NATO territory and forces against missile threats, determine the best mix of systems and capabilities to obtain a NATO missile defence and recommend options for system elements that are consistent with NATO and national missile defence capabilities.
Within the framework of its decision to eliminate materials, equipment and programmes that might be used to produce internationally banned weapons, the Government of Libya declared, on 19 December, that it had agreed to restrict its missile activities to missiles with a range of no more than 300 km, in line with the standards agreed under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC)
The subscribing States to the HCOC held their first Intersessional Meeting in Vienna from 24 to 25 June. The meeting was chaired by the Netherlands as its Chair and was organized jointly with Austria that serves as the Immediate Central Contact under the Code. The Vienna Meeting discussed, inter alia
, the implementation of confidence-building measures, such as the exchange of annual declarations on national ballistic missile and space launch vehicle policies and pre-launch notifications.
On 2 and 3 October, the HCOC held its second Regular Meeting of Subscribing States at UN Headquarters. The meeting agreed on a mechanism for circulation of communications related to confidence-building measures and on a strategy of cooperation with the United Nations system that included an invitation to the UN Secretariat to participate as a special observer in the third regular meeting of Subscribing States which would take place in 2004. During the meeting, it was decided that Chile would succeed the Netherlands as Chair of the HCOC. The Meeting was preceded by an outreach seminar in New York on 1 October. The seminar, organized in the margins of the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, was aimed at increasing the profile of the Code by reaching out to non-Subscribing States, the media, interested non-governmental organizations and other external parties.
At the end of the year, the HCOC had 109 Subscribing States.1
For subscribing States, see fact sheet on HCOC, 6 January 2004, available from www.state.gov/t/np/rls/fs/27799.htm [accessed 18 August 2004].