Prevention of the Weaponization of and an Arms Race in Outer Space: An Urgent Task With No Time to Delay:Statement by Ambassador Li Daoyu, President of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association At the International Conference on "Safeguarding Space Security: Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space"
Madam Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend this conference on “Safeguarding Space Security: Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space”. The prevention of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space has attracted the attention of the world for decades. With the growing ability of mankind to explore and use outer space, the danger of weaponization of outer space has become increasingly imminent.
As human civilization enters into the 21st century, the development of science and technology has offered us an unprecedented opportunity to explore and use outer space. We have witnessed glorious achievements on peaceful exploration and use of outer space in recent years, such as the successful landing of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” and “Opportunity” on Mars, the European “Huygens” probe on Titan, as well as China’s historical success in its manned-spaceship program. These have aroused mankind’s aspiration of exploring outer space. Many countries are following up by setting out their own long-term space exploration plans.
The peaceful use of outer space has brought tremendous benefits to human development and social progress. More and more countries have gained the capability to explore and use outer space by purchasing or renting commercial satellites. According to statistics, so far the number of spacecrafts launched by countries all over the world has amounted to over 5,000, of which about 600 satellites are operating in different orbits in outer pace. It is estimated that by 2010, the total number of satellites around the Earth will reach 2,000. By then, every aspect of human life will benefit from the exploration and use of outer space. The well being of mankind will be more than ever closely linked with peace and tranquility of outer space.
Science and technology, however, is a double-edged sword. While it brings us benefits, it can also be used to cause disaster. As we are cheering for every success of peaceful exploration and use of outer space, we are also alarmed a series of perilous development. The space military technology is advancing rapidly. New military and combat concepts and theories like “control of space” and “occupation of space” are emerging. Research and development programs of space weapons are in implementation. The danger of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space is ever more imminent.
Once an arms race occurred in outer space, it would inflict awesome catastrophe to mankind. Being aware of this danger since long before, the international community has been striving to conclude international legal instruments to regulate human activities in outer space. Since the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) included the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) into its agenda in the late 1950s, thanks to the concerted efforts by all countries, several international treaties related to outer space have been concluded, such as the Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Agreement, the Registration Convention, Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused By Space Objects, Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, etc. These treaties have contributed, to some extent, to the prevention of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space.
However, with the fast development of science and technology today, and with the change of security concepts, those above-mentioned treaties are far from being enough in preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. There are four, if not more, loopholes within those treaties.
Firstly, they cannot prevent test, deployment and use of weapons other than those of mass destruction in outer space, especially in orbit around the earth, celestials other than the moon and outer space.
Secondly, they are not to adress such issues like the threat or use of force from the Earth (including from land, sea or air) against outer space objects.
Thirdly, with the abolishment of the ABM Treaty, the international legal system has been weakened and undermined.
Lastly, some of the existing legal instruments lack universality. For example, only 10 States have so far contracted the Moon Agreement.
Facing the danger of weaponization of outer space, if we fail to take effective measures to prevent the development and use of new destructive military technology and equipment before they come into being, history is likely to repeat and new tragedies occur, and our children will suffer heavily for our inaction. Therefore, what we need most is action, not mere rhetoric.
The international community has gained broad common understanding in preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. It is the view of the majority of countries that outer space is common heritage of human kind. Since 1981, the UNGA adopted every year, supported by overwhelming majority, the resolution of “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space”. This reflects the political will of international community.
The relevant UNGA resolution of 1981 has stated that “the Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, has the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement or agreements, as appropriate, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects”. Accordingly, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has included in its agenda items “the prevention of an arms race in outer space” as a standing topic since 1982. From 1984 to 1995, the ad hoc committee had been set up for ten consecutive years to discuss the non-weaponization of outer space. Regrettably, due to the lack of consensus on the program of work, the CD hasn’t yet started to negotiate an international legal instrument. Given the growing possibility of weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, all parties concerned should intensify their efforts to move forward.
It should be noted that, over the years, many countries, including China and Russia, have devoted themselves to the early negotiation and conclusion of an international legal instrument on the prevention of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. Other countries, intellectual communities and NGOs have also put forward many other proposals, which are conducive to maintaining peace and security in outer space.
Madam Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace and development are our common desire for. Since the emergence of nuclear weapons in the twentieth century, mankind has lived in the fear of nuclear warfare for decades. It is therefore my sincere hope that, no effort should be spared to maintain a peaceful and safe outer space, so that our children will not live in another shadow of fear.