"We must guard against the misuse of outer space, and, in particular, against the creation of an arms race in outer space. The international community recognized early on that a legal regime for outer space was needed to prevent it from becoming another arena of military confrontation. It is important to find ways to reinforce the legal regime and enhance its effectiveness."1
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
Conference on Disarmament, 2004
As the Conference on Disarmament (the Conference) did not reach an agreement on a programme of work in 2004, no subsidiary body was established to deal with the issue of the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). Nevertheless, following an agreement reached by Member States to have structured discussions on various substantive agenda items at the plenary meetings, one plenary meeting was dedicated to an exchange of views on the issue. At that meeting, China and the Russian Federation circulated two jointly prepared informal papers entitled "Verification aspects of PAROS" and "Existing international legal instruments and prevention of the weaponization of outer space".
In its statement, Russia reiterated that the issue of preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space was a priority among the items on the Conference's agenda. It held the view that outer space should remain an area of cooperation and mutual understanding, rather than confrontation. It underlined that it had no current or short-term plans to create any space weapon systems or deploy them in outer space. As a first practical step, it proposed the introduction of a moratorium on the placement of military assets in outer space, pending the conclusion of an agreement on this issue by the international community.2
China reiterated the urgency and necessity of preventing the weaponization of and arms race in outer space in the current international situation. In its view, the priority was to further consolidate the international consensus on the prevention of the weaponization of outer space and an arms race in outer space by means of a legal instrument.3
China held that the Conference should reach an agreement on its programme of work as proposed by the five Ambassadors in document CD/1693/Rev.1, the so-called "A-5 proposal", with a view to beginning substantive work on such important agenda items including PAROS leading to the negotiation and drafting of an international legal instrument on that issue.4
Canada stated that it was strongly opposed to the weaponization of space and strove to protect space as a universal good. It remained committed to seeing the Conference play a major role in that regard, through reinstituting an ad hoc committee to discuss PAROS in all its aspects. Canada also believed that verification provisions must be included in any space weapons ban as a necessary element of any eventual treaty.5
France said that it continued to support the setting up of an ad hoc committee on PAROS, as it was convinced that the item should be considered independently of other issues. It reiterated three essential principles on the issue: free access to space for all for peaceful uses, preservation of the security and integrity of orbiting satellites, and the need to take into account States' legitimate defence interests.6
Sweden pointed out that outer space must be preserved for peaceful purposes. The potential threat posed by the weaponization of outer space and the risk of a subsequent arms race was of great concern.7
It supported the establishment of an ad hoc committee in the Conference on Disarmament to deal with outer space. As a first step, it proposed that the Conference allocate time for informal technical meetings involving a wider range of actors in the space field, for example, from international organizations, space agencies, space law and the private sector.
Sri Lanka noted that the majority of delegations had expressed strong support for the re-establishment of an ad hoc committee in the Conference on the issue of PAROS during its open-ended informal consultations and the informal plenaries. It recalled its 1985 proposal of a moratorium on the testing and development of space weapons preceding multilateral negotiations on a treaty to prohibit weapons in space.8
United Kingdom stated that it was difficult to separate what happened in outer space from what happened on earth. It added that what was driving developments in outer space was the risk of intercontinental ballistic missile proliferation and nuclear-weapons technology, therefore, we had to start on the ground if we wanted to avoid an arms race. It considered that a fissile material cut-off treaty would be one such step, and the next step that the Conference could and should take.9
General Assembly, 2004
59/65 Prevention of an arms race in outer space
The draft resolution was introduced by Egypt, on behalf of the sponsors (see page 3
for the sponsors) on 20 October. It was adopted by the First Committee on 27 October (167-0-2) and by the General Assembly on 3 December (178-0-4).For the text of the resolution and the voting see pages 14
The resolution called upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to actively contribute to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in outer space and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective and to the relevant existing treaties in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation. It also invited the Conference on Disarmament to complete the examination and updating of the mandate contained in its decision of 13 February 199210
and to establish an ad hoc committee as early as possible during its 2005 session.
"Secretary-General says benefits of space exploration should not be limited to privileged few." Message delivered on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight and the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first United States space shuttle, 12 April 2001. (SG/SM/7767).
CD/PV.966, 26 August 2004, available from http://disarmament.un.org/ cd/cd-meeting.html.
Mandate for an ad hoc committee under item 5 of the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament's agenda entitled "Prevention of an arms race in outer space", adopted at the 612th plenary meeting on 13 February 1992 (CD/1125).