SPEAKERS WARN AGAINST POTENTIAL OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUE DEBATE

8 October 2002
GA/SPD/240

SPEAKERS WARN AGAINST POTENTIAL OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUE DEBATE

08/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SPD/240


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

8th Meeting (AM)


SPEAKERS WARN AGAINST POTENTIAL OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE,


AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUE DEBATE


The international community was confronting many new threats, and the militarization of outer space should not be one of them, the representative of the Russian Federation told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as it continued its debate on international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.


Rather than contributing to the challenges facing the international community, the peaceful use of outer space could be used to solve them, he said.  His Government advocated the drafting of a single, comprehensive convention on outer space law, which would help solve issues not resolved by consensus and clarify the different space treaties, and was also prepared to take practical steps to prevent the militarization of outer space.  The first step could be the introduction of a moratorium on the deployment of weapons in outer space.  The Russian Federation would be prepared join such a moratorium, if other major outer space States also agreed.


Cuba's representative described the existing legal regime as insufficient for ensuring the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  New mechanisms must be adopted for the verification of space law.  An arms race in outer space would not only violate the principle of outer space as a "common heritage", but would also jeopardize collective security.  The principles guiding the exploration and uses of outer space must be based on the need to preserve its peaceful use.


The representative of Pakistan agreed that a comprehensive convention to prevent an arms race in outer space must be concluded.  Outer space, declared the "province of mankind" some 33 three years ago, threatened to become yet another area of military competition.  The militarization of outer space must be avoided at all costs.  States with significant space capabilities could contribute to achieving the collective goal of preventing an arms race in outer space, and addressing the militarization of outer space was well within the mandate of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Ukraine, India, Malaysia, Egypt and Romania.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 9 October, to continue its work.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning, to continue its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space.  [For background information, see press release GA/SPD/239 of 7 October 2002.]


Statements


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said outer space technology had acquired growing importance in different aspects of human society, in particular in improving the quality of life.  It would be difficult today to do away with remote sensing, telecommunications and navigation systems.  The fascination with outer space had set free the imagination of millions of people and had encouraged unlimited creativity in the development of new technologies.  Meteorological satellite observation had improved weather forecasts, and helped demonstrate the effects of climate change.


Outer space was a common heritage of mankind, he said.  Three main principles must rule the activities of States in the exploration and use of outer space.  The first was the necessity of preserving outer space for peaceful uses exclusively, while enhancing international cooperation and the economic growth of all countries in the interest of sustainable development, including through the transfer of advanced space technology from the most developed countries to the less developed.  Unfortunately, the gap between developed and developing countries in science and technology was also present in the implementation of space sciences.  Cuba rejected attempts to revise the principles relevant to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in outer space, which would not take into consideration the interest of all States, in particular the developing countries.


Cuba emphatically rejected plans to unleash an arms race in outer space, he said.  That would not only violate the principle of outer space as a common heritage, but would also jeopardize collective security.  He reiterated Cuba's deep concern that some nuclear States, which were space-faring nations, continued to block the negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament.  That Conference had the objective of establishing an international instrument for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  Regarding space law, Cuba agreed with the view that the existing legal regime was not enough to ensure the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  New mechanisms for the proper verification of space law must be adopted.


Cuba favoured strengthening the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two functional subcommittees, he said.  He welcomed the increase in the number of countries that had requested to participate as observers in the Committee's forty-fifth session.  Cuba also supported the requests of Algeria and Libya for membership in the Committee.  Regarding space debris, he said greater attention must also be given to the collisions of space objects, including nuclear power sources.  International cooperation in outer space could be neither privatized, nor limited to a small group of developed countries.


SERGEY TARASENKO (Russian Federation) said his country advocated a comprehensive, productive dialogue on all problems concerning the international regime for outer space, so that the Outer Space Committee could regain its reputation as one of the most active bodies in the United Nations system.  Russia also advocated the drafting of a single, comprehensive convention on outer space law.  Such a framework could help solve issues not settled by consensus, as well as clarify the different space treaties.  Russia had also proposed continuing discussions on the establishment of a world outer space organization, which by carrying out everyday monitoring, could resolve some of the issues concerning peaceful use.


The international community was coping with many new threats, he said.  Outer space must not be one of those threats, but must contribute to the task of solving such challenges.  Outer space could not be used for unlawful purposes.  Russia was prepared to take practical steps to prevent the militarization of outer space.  If all States took steps towards that end, that could become a reality.  Agreements on the use of outer space must include several principles, such as the use of outer space in interest of maintaining peace and security, the obligation not to deploy weapons in outer space and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to implement the agreement.  The first step could be the introduction of a moratorium.  If other major outer space powers joined such a moratorium, Russia would be prepared to agree to it.


Only a few days ago, he continued, Russia's Foreign Minister had outlined a new Russian initiative to enhance transparency in the sphere of outer space.  Russia was prepared to present information on forthcoming launches of space vehicles, their use and parameters.  He hoped that new prospects in the exploration of outer space would be done in the name of peace and the sustainable development of all mankind.


OLEKSANDR SCHERBA (Ukraine) said there had been significant progress in the development and use of the space industry.  Even so, a number of global challenges persisted in which space technology could be applied, including natural disasters, which had inflicted much damage on Europe and other regions of the world this year.  There were other potential threats to human civilization, such as the danger of large celestial bodies bombarding the earth, which demanded further study.  In addition, there was a need to fight space debris, and the Legal Subcommittee should attend to the legal aspects of space debris removal.


It was import to foster international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, he said, noting that Ukraine had always supported the efforts of the United Nations in ensuring a global dialogue on space matters and reiterated its continued commitment to the expansion of such cooperation.  He expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in promoting regional and interregional cooperation, adding that Ukraine supported the recommendation by the Committee that regional centres be set up on the basis of affiliation to the United Nations.  That would strengthen the possibility of attracting donors, as well as help establish academic relationships with space-related institutions.


While describing the possibilities and potentials of Ukraine in space technology and the country’s contributions to international cooperation, he noted with satisfaction that, in line with General Assembly resolution 56/51, the Legal Subcommittee had considered the preparation of the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Preliminary Draft Protocol on Matters Specific to Space Assets.  Those documents could facilitate the commercial use of outer space for the benefit of countries at all levels of economic and technological development.  He wanted the Committee and its Legal Subcommittee to continue playing an active role in the elaboration of the preliminary draft protocol.  He also shared the view that the issue of drafting a universal, comprehensive convention on international space law should be tabled by the Legal Subcommittee.


RAMJI LAL SUMAN (India) said the peaceful applications of space exploration had great potential for the progress of all countries, in particular for the developing countries.  Cooperation was essential for the development of technologies and applications related to outer space.  In its report, the Outer Space Committee had noted the potential benefits of outer space, including in the fields of agriculture, environmental protection and natural resource management.  Such applications would strengthen the goal of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes.  The Committee had achieved notable progress in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III.


Recognizing that space technology could play a vital role in national development, India had made a focused effort to develop and apply such technologies, he said.  India was committed to international cooperation for the peaceful uses of outer space.  In the ever-expanding frontier of space, greater cooperation was needed.  The United Nations, through the Outer Space Committee, should work to further enhance international cooperation for the peaceful use of outer space.


DATO’IR HJ MOHD. ZIN MOHAMED (Malaysia) said his country agreed in full with the strategy to promote the peaceful use of outer space for human development, in particular in developing countries, in terms of strengthening communications infrastructure, disaster management, education, agriculture, environmental protection and natural resources management.  Such a strategy would enhance international cooperation in space activities.


While describing Malaysia’s progress in the advancement of remote sensing technology, he emphasized that militarization of outer space must be prevented.  The best practical means of keeping outer space for peaceful uses would be by establishing more international agreements prohibiting testing, deployment and the use of any weapons systems or their components in outer space.  He was concerned with certain ongoing research and testing of outer space weaponry, which threatened human development and had a negative impact on the structure of international security.


He supported regional and interregional cooperation in space science and technology and praised the continuing efforts undertaken through the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, noting that such efforts encouraged international cooperation.  In that context, Malaysia had, since 1990, coordinated several bilateral and multilateral programmes to effect technology transfer in the area of utilization of microwave data.  He reviewed his country’s launching capability and noted it had scheduled its first launch for the end of 2003.  His Government welcomed efforts to set up regional centres for space science and technology in developing countries, and said it would continue to seek international cooperation in all aspects of the Committee’s work, while pursuing its own indigenous capability.


MOHAMED ELFARNAWANY (Egypt) said the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was the only such Committee established by the General Assembly to consider ways and means to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  The Committee's achievements were many and he was particularly encouraged by the efforts of the Legal Subcommittee to review the application of the five treaties governing outer space.  Egypt had participated in working groups on disaster management and sustainable development.  He welcomed the Committee's outline for the General Assembly's 2004 review, and supported the call to include a new item on the review of the UNISPACE III recommendations on the Assembly's agenda for its fifty-ninth session.


He underlined the importance of using space technology and remote sensing in a way that served the developing and least developing countries.  He welcomed the Chairman's statement on the peaceful uses of outer space for capacity-building to the recent Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.  He called on Member States to review the Committee's recommendation to finance the participation of representatives of least developed countries in the work of the Committee and its two subcommittees.  Egypt had established a research council to develop a national programme to benefit from advances in space technology, including the remote sensing of deserts by satellite and the use of space technologies to develop national industries.  Egypt supported the applications of Algeria and Libya for membership to the Committee.


ALEXANDRINA RUSU (Romania), fully endorsed the statement earlier delivered on behalf of the European Union by the representative of Denmark.  Since last September, her country had initiated new projects and programmes in the fields of outer space and aerospace, and Romanian scientists had participated in the development of international space missions.  Such participation represented a noteworthy example of Romania’s commitment to international cooperation in matters related to the peaceful uses of the outer space.


Her Government paid the utmost attention to the support of space-related applications in developing countries, as a means to ensure the exploration and the use of space science and technology for the benefit of mankind.  She noted with satisfaction the results of the assistance provided by Romanian experts, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to Azerbaijan in developing its own Land Information System, as well as the results of the consultancy to Angola for the organisation of the events related to the total solar eclipse from last year.  Romania recognised that space applications were fundamental tools for bringing about sustainable development in all countries.


TARIQ S. CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said his country remained concerned that outer space, declared the "province of mankind" some 33 years ago, was today threatened by the transformation into yet another area of military competition.  The militarization of outer space was a dangerous tendency that needed to be avoided at all costs and, if possible, reversed.  In view of the fact that military activities affected international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and uses of outer space, addressing that issue was well within the Outer Space Committee's competence.  The peaceful and non-peaceful uses of outer space were inseparably linked.


Pakistan believed that the States with significant space capabilities could contribute to achieving the collective goal of preventing an arms race in outer space, he said.  A comprehensive convention to prevent an arms race in outer space must be concluded.  He supported the Chinese-Russian draft of possible elements

for a future international legal agreement on averting the placement of weapons in outer space, which had been circulated at the Conference on Disarmament earlier in the year.


He reiterated the importance of equitable access to the geostationary orbit for all countries, including the developing countries.  The Committee had made some progress in that area and it remained the most relevant body for the examination of the issue.  He emphasized the utility of discussions on the development of legal and technical concepts related to the geostationary orbit.  The divisive issue of the rights of States over the geostationary orbit was not the only matter that warranted attention.  The question of access could be further explored through cooperation between the Outer Space Committee and the International Telecommunications Union Conference.  The definition and delimitation of outer space was necessary to distinguish outer space from air space, and to bring about legal certainty with regard to space law.  He welcomed the Committee's agreement to adopt a revised questionnaire on possible legal issues with regard to aerospace objects. 


He supported incorporating the principles for remote sensing in a more binding legal instrument and underscored the importance of easy and low-cost access to remote sensing data for developing countries.  The issue of "space debris" must also be addressed.  The benefits of space science and technology must be shared by all countries, including through the dissemination of satellite-based data, and teaching assistance and training in institutional capabilities.  In that regard, he stressed the need for greater voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. 


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For information media. Not an official record.