Militarization, weaponization, and the prevention of an arms race
The prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) is a critical issue on the UN disarmament and arms control agenda. On the page, you can find links to definitions of key terms, information about relevant UN processes, and more. You can also download a two-page version in PDF.
One of the dangers in outer space is that almost anything can be used as a weapon. It does not take more than a tiny rock (or a random piece of space debris) to destroy important satellites or other devices. The United States argues that the inability to define space weapons is the main barrier to a treaty that prevents them. One key element, however, is the distinction between the militarization and weaponization of outer space:
Militarization of outer space: Space has been militarized since the earliest communication satellites were launched. Today, militaries all over the world rely on satellites for command and control, communication, monitoring, early warning, and navigation with the Global Positioning System. Therefore, “peaceful uses” of outer space include military uses, even those which are not at all peaceful—such as using satellites to direct bombing raids or to orchestrate a “prompt global strike” capability, which is “the ability to control any situation or defeat any adversary across the range of military operations.”
Weaponization of outer space: Space weaponization is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices that have a destructive capacity. Many experts argue that ground-based systems designed or used to attack space-based assets also constitute space weapons, though are not technically part of the “weaponization of outer space” since they are not placed in orbit. Some also argue that weapons that travel through space in order to reach their targets, such as hypersonic technology vehicles, also contribute to the weaponization of space. Many elements of the US ballistic “missile defense” system currently being developed or planned could constitute space weapons as well, as many possess “dual-use” characteristics, allowing them to destroy space assets as well as ballistic missiles.Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS):
The overwhelming majority of UN member states are concerned that the weaponization of outer space will lead to an arms race and insist that a multilateral treaty is the only way to prevent such an arms race, emphasizing that this treaty would not limit space access, but would prevent such limitations. In 2006, Russia argued that if all states observe a prohibition on space weaponization, there will be no arms race. Russia and China also support establishing an obligation of no use or threat of use of force against space objects and have submitted a draft treaty to the UN on preventing the placement of weapons in outer space.
Space weapons and missile "defence"
While as far as anyone knows there are currently no weapons deployed in space, the United States has invested in developing potential technologies, and both China and the United States have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In response to the potential threats of space weaponization, as well as perceived ballistic missile threats, the US is also developing a ballistic missile defense shield. While missile defense is presented as a defense of American and allied territories against a limited missile attack, it is in reality one more step towards full spectrum dominance.
Missile defence allows countries to develop offensive technologies under the pretence of defense. For example, Kinetic Energy Inteceptors are missiles that are launched into space to take out enemy missiles by smashing into them. They also have potential applications as offensive anti-satellite weapons, because the same maneovering abilities and set of controls is necessary to destroy satellites.
Major defense contractors are actively developing their aerospace capabilities, and smaller aerospace corporations are competing to prove their technical innovation in making satellites smaller and launch vehicles less expensive.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the development of missile defence and space weapon technology, including the increased conventional military dominance by the United States, the vast waste of resources that accompanies any arms build-up, whether it's a race or an asymmetrical surge, and the physical results of fighting in outer space - especially space debris, which will destroy civil and commercial space infrastructure such as satellites. The corporations studied in Reaching Critical Will's Dirty Dozen and the Dirty Dozen Annex (coming soon!) are all contributing to the steady drive toward a future in which these concerns are our dirty reality.
Besides creating an new arms race, the weaponization of space means proliferation of space debris. Such debris, resulting from 50 years of space activity, already poses a considerable hazard to spacecraft. This crowding problem could worsen as a large number of space weapons could be deployed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The launching and testing of weapons would also increase space debris. Moreover, deploying space-based weapons in the increasingly crowded realm of LEO would leave less room for civilian systems. Those problems would also occur during periods of peace. If a number of satellites were to be destroyed during the course of a war, some scientists warn, they would create so much debris that it would prevent future satellites from being stationed in space and generally limit space access.
Effects on arms control and nuclear disarmament
The weaponization of space will destroy strategic balance and stability, undermine international and national security, and disrupt existing arms control instruments, in particular those related to nuclear weapons and missiles. These effects will inevitably lead to a new arms race. Space weaponization would seriously disrupt the arms control and disarmament process. The United States' withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 and the development of US ground- and sea- based “missile defenses” have already increased tensions with Russia and have led to increased missile proliferation.The deployment of these technologies or the development of space-based technologies will likely cause Russia, as well as the United States (in response to Russia), to make smaller and smaller reductions of their nuclear arsenals and to reject the development of new treaties to regulate nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. China would likely build more warheads to maintain its nuclear deterrent, which could in turn encourage India and then Pakistan to follow suit.
In January 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon against one of its own ageing weather satellites. The United States, while condemning the test, forged ahead with several space and missile defence projects with dual-use capabilities. In addition, in February 2008, the United States shot down own of it's own failed satellites that was carrying a half-ton of hydrazine rocket fuel (a toxic chemical). The US military shot it down with a Standard Missile-3, whose primary vocation is interceptor for the US Navy’s missile defense system.
Current trends in US policy
While as far as anyone knows there are currently no weapons deployed in space, the US policy on outer space is concerning. Under the Bush administration, the 2006 US National Space Policy explained that the US will “preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intending to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests.”
At that point, the United States rejected treaties “limiting its actions” in outer space and its space policy firmly opposed “the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space,” and insisted that “proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for US national interests.”
In July 2010, the Obama administration released the new US National Space Policy. It states that the US shall pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible action in, and the peaceful uses of, space. The new policy also notes that the US will consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are “equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the US and its allies.” The language in this new policy suggests that this is a significant departure from its predecessor. However, the actual implications of this change are still unknown. While claiming that it is open to considering space-related arms control concepts and proposals, the US argues that such proposals must meet the “‘rigorous criteria’ of equitability, effective verifiability, and enhance the national security interests of the US and its allies.” The Russian-Chinese joint draft treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) would not meet these criteria according to the US, as it is “fundamentally flawed” and would not provide any grounds for commencing negotiations.
The United States Department of Defense continues to invest in programs that could provide anti-satellite and space-based weapons capabilities. While the technology itself is highly controversial, it presents major business opportunities to companies that know how to overcome moral, logistical, and financial roadblocks. War has always been highly profitable, and dominance of outer space leads to further profits in conventional warfare. As the Air Force Space Command stated in its 2003 Strategic Master Plan, “the ability to gain space superiority (the ability to exploit space while selectively disallowing it to adversaries) is critically important and maintaining space superiority is an essential prerequisite in modern warfare.” Superiority in conventional warfare relies on military assets in space, especially satellites, which are used for intelligence, remote sensing, navigation, and monitoring, among other things. Since the US currently asserts its political will through force, protection of its own space assets and disturbance of others’ is key to guaranteeing US dominance.
Although the current international legal instruments concerning outer space do, to some extent, prohibit and restrict the deployment of weapons, use of force as well as military activities in certain parts of space, the related provisions contained in them are seen by some states to be limited in scope and therefore inadequate for preventing weaponization of outer space. The progress of science and technology could make it necessary to strengthen the existing international legal system.
Relevant UN bodies
Several UN bodies deal with the issue of outer space:
The United Nations General Assembly is consensus-building body, where issues of international peace and security are collectively discussed among all UN member states. Its regular session convenes in September of each year, and after two weeks of General Debate, it breaks up into six specialized committees. Every member state is entitled to participate in each of the committees, where they consider proposals relevant to the substantive topics covered by the committee, and recommend resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly. While these resolutions are not legally binding, they can be normative—that is, they can indicate the establishment of customs, standards, and guidelines for appropriate behavior. Resolutions adopted by consensus also indicate substantive areas of agreement that are ripe for negotiation and can enable the creation of new treaties and the emergence of international legal norms. Furthermore, they demonstrate global governmental opinion, showing which governments support peace and security, and which choose to remain outside of or even impede the development of international cooperative security.
The General Assembly's work on disarmament is conducted through one of its main committees, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Each year in the First Committee and then again in the General Assembly as a whole, a resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) is introduced and adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. In fact, every country in the world votes in favor of negotiating a treaty on PAROS—except for the US and Israel, which abstain.
The PAROS resolution reaffirms the importance of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, saying that PAROS efforts are in conformity with that Treaty. However, the resolution also notes that the current outer space legal regime “does not in and of itself guarantee the prevention of an arms race in outer space.” The PAROS resolution calls for states, especially those with space capabilities, to refrain from actions contrary to the objective of PAROS and to “contribute actively” to that objective. It argues for consolidation and reinforcement of the outer space legal regime, and says the Conference on Disarmament (see below) is the place for a new treaty on PAROS to be negotiated. A PAROS treaty would complement the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to preserve space for peaceful uses, if it prevented the use of space weapons and the development of space-weapon technology and technology related to so-called “missile defense.” A PAROS treaty would also prevent any nation from gaining a further military advantage in outer space and would hopefully reduce current military uses of outer space.
In recent years, the General Assembly has also adopted by consensus a resolution drafted by Russia and China on transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in outer space. TCBMs are a good step towards enhancing trust and international cooperation among states. They facilitate management of situations which could otherwise lead to international tension. Most states acknowledge that TCBMs do not replace a legally-binding treaty on PAROS but may function as a start to a step-by-step approach on preventing the weaponization of outer space.
In 2010, the General Assembly agreeed to launch a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore TCBMs that could be undertaken to enhance space security. This GGE will commence in July 2012.
Conference on Disarmament
PAROS has been a longstanding agenda item in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the primary body where UN disarmament treaties are negotiated. The Conference established an “ad hoc committee” on PAROS in 1985 to examine and identify “through substantive and general consideration, issues relevant to [PAROS].” This committee lasted until 1994, though it made little progress. Annual CD reports suggested that the Western group of states, and in particular one state—presumably the United States—had been blocking the negotiation of a treaty banning weapons in space, or a treaty banning anti-satellite weapons, despite having made a proposal along these lines in 1981 that helped lead to the establishment of the ad hoc committee. The US stated openly in 1990 that it “has not identified any practical outer space arms control measures that can be dealt with in a multilateral environment.”
UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)
Also referred to as the Outer Space Committee, COPUOS was established in 1959 by the UN General Assembly in resolution 1472 (XIV) to review international cooperation in and devise UN programmes related to the peaceful use of outer space, encourage research and dissemination of information on outer space, and consider legal issues arising from the exploration of outer space. The Committee, which has 67 member states, and its two subcommittees—the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee—meet annually in Vienna and their decisions are implemented by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.
In June 2007, COPUOS adopted debris mitigation guidelines, which had been developed by a working group on space debris in the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee over the past few years. The guidelines include measures to be considered for mission planning, design, manufacture, and operational (launch, mission, and disposal) phases of spacecraft and launch vehicle orbital stages. Member states have pledged to implement these guidelines within their national licensing or other applicable mechanisms “to the greatest extent feasible.”
The 2007 session of COPUOS also agreed on a draft resolution on the practice of states and international organizations in registering space objects to be submitted to the General Assembly, and approved a workplan for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).
UN General Assembly Fourth Committee on Special Political and Decolonization
The Committee has played a crucial role in advancing space cooperation and provides a unique opportunity for the exchange of information among governments on the latest developments in the use and exploration of outer space. The Fourth Committee could be a better forum to work on preventing the weaponization of space than the first committee since the framework of this committee is based on development instead of security and there are more actors using space for development purposes than for military ones. The Fourth Committee meets every year for a four or five week session following the General Assembly General Debate and is comprised of all UN member states.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
The ITU, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is another international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services. The ITU plays a vital role in the management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, finite natural resources which are increasingly in demand from a large number of services such as fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur, space research, meteorology, global positioning systems, environmental monitoring and, last but not least, those communication services that ensure safety of life at sea and in the skies.
Processes and proposals
There are several proposals and processes ongoing:
Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space
In 2007, the UN Secretary-General issued a report compiling the views of member states on the issue of TCMBs in outer space, as requested by a General Assembly resolution. The report was issued in two parts: A/62/114 and A/62/114/Add.1.
In 2010, the General Assembly agreeed to launch a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore TCBMs that could be undertaken to enhance space security. This GGE will commence in July 2012.
Prevention of an arms race in outer space
Through resolutions and discussions within the United Nations, a general agreement has developed that an arms race in outer space should be prevented. However, due to the structure of the international legal regime and to the objection of a (very) few states, a treaty has not yet been negotiated to comprehensively prevent the deployment of weapons in space or to prevent an arms race in outer space. The United States systematically argues that an arms race in outer space does not yet exist, and it is therefore unnecessary to take action on the issue. The rest of the international community agrees that, because there is not yet an arms race, now is the time to prevent weaponization of space.
Prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space (PPWT)
Some delegations and experts have argued that PAROS is not the most relevant term or treaty to pursue. Discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has recently focused instead on a treaty to prevent the placement of weapons in outer space. Changing the language in this way circumvents the US argument against PAROS, though it doesn't solve questions of definitions over where outer space begins, what type of weapons should be prohibited, or if the treaty would be verifiable.
Overview of the draft treaty The preamble of both the 2002 paper and the draft treaty emphasizes the need to keep outer space free from “military confrontation” and open to peaceful uses and exploration for the “development of humankind”. It also notes that while existing arms control and disarmament agreements relevant to outer space “play a positive role ... in regulating outer space activities,” they are insufficient to “effectively prevent the placement of weapons and an arms race in outer space.” It argues for “examination of further measures in the search for effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements in order to prevent an arms race in outer space.”
The draft treaty’s articles expand upon the elements contained the 2002 working paper. It defines certain terms, such as “outer space,” “outer space object,” and “weapons in outer space.” It specifies that the latter means any device placed in outer space, based on any physical principle, specially produced or converted to eliminate, damage or disrupt normal function of objects in outer space, on the Earth or in its air, as well as to eliminate population, components of biosphere critical to human existence or inflict damage to them.
It subsequently explains, “a weapon will be considered as ‘placed’ in outer space if it orbits the Earth at least once, or follows a section of such an orbit before leaving this orbit or is stationed on a permanent basis somewhere in outer space,” and describes “use of force” or “threat of force” as meaning any hostile action against outer space objects including, inter alia, those aimed at their destruction, damage, temporarily or permanently injuring normal functioning, deliberate alteration of the parameters of their orbit, or the threat of these actions.
The draft goes on to explain that states parties to the treaty undertake not to place in orbit “any objects carrying any kind of weapons,” not to install them on celestial bodies or other space structures, not to use or threaten to use force against outer space objects, and not to encourage any other parties to do so. It emphasizes the treaty will not impede the rights of states parties “to explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes in accordance with international law.” For matters of transparency and compliance, the draft provides for voluntary confidence-building measures. On verification and compliance enforcement, the draft provides for the possibility of subsequent negotiation of an additional protocol and for the establishment of an executive organization for the treaty, which will consider complaints of treaty violations, organize and conduct consultations with states parties, and “take measures to put an end to the violation of the Treaty by any State Party.”
Analysis of the draft treaty The draft treaty does not settle all of the questions government and non-government experts have asked over the years, such as:
What implications will the current militarization of space have for this treaty? Space has been militarized since the earliest communication satellites were launched; today, militaries all over the world rely heavily on satellites for command and control, communication, monitoring, early warning, and navigation. Most states accept that “peaceful purposes of outer space” include military uses, even those which are not at all peaceful—such as using satellites to direct bombing raids or to orchestrate a “prompt global strike” capability. The use of space objects to conduct war on Earth is not addressed by this treaty.
The militarization of space also presents many problems of “dual use technologies”—some space objects can be used for commercial or military purposes or as weapons. The draft treaty does not address how it will deal with dual-use space-based objects. Would any space object that can be maneuvered to intentionally crash into another space object be considered a space weapon? It is advertised as an autonomous rendezvous space-based object intended to fix other space objects, but its capacity to maneuver around another satellite also allows it to disable or destroy its target.
Many experts have asserted a treaty should also ban ground-based weapons aimed at attacking space assets, including ground-based ballistic missile defense systems. However, intercontinental ballistic missiles and missile interceptors, which could be used to attack space objects, travel on a sub-orbital trajectory. While some might travel through space, they never maintain sufficient velocity to achieve orbit. The draft treaty says states parties shall not “resort to the threat or use of force against outer space objects,” but it does not restrict the development, testing, or deployment of missile defense systems or other ground-based anti-satellite systems, only systems placed in orbit or installed on structures or bodies in outer space.
The draft treaty does not ban development or testing of space weapons, only their use. So then, would China’s test in January 2007 of an anti-satellite weapon or the US shoot-down of a failed satellite in 2008 be considered a violation of the treaty? If states are allowed to continue developing and testing weapons, won’t this defeat the stated purpose of the treaty—which is ostensibly “strategic stability” and “political equilibrium”.
There are many diverging opinions on verification of a PPWT: some have argued for a normative treaty without verification provisions, others say it cannot be effectively verified, and some argue that verification should not be separated from other aspects of the treaty and that it should be addressed in the course of negotiations. The indication that verification “may” be covered by an additional protocol suggests the possibility of no or limited verification measures.
Media reaction The mass media presented the introduction of the draft treaty as a “showdown” between the United States and Russia/China over “competing international treaties, one banning the production of nuclear materials and the other trying to prevent an arms race in space.” The Washington Times quoted an unidentified US official as saying, “We put our FMCT [fissile materials cut-off treaty] draft forward in May 2006 and have been pushing it all along, before there was any talk of a treaty on outer space.” This statement is incorrect, because an ad hoc committee on PAROS was established in the CD in 1985, the UN General Assembly has adopted annual resolutions on PAROS with an overwhelming majority for over twenty years (according to China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi), and Russia and China introduced possible elements for a PAROS treaty in 2002 (see above).
The Washington Times further (mis)reported, “Now Russia and China have linked negotiations on the FMCT” to the PPWT. Russia and China actually used to link the two items, and if they did so now it would be nothing new, as the Times suggests it is. However, in 2007 Russia agreed to adopt the compromise programme of work proposed by the CD's rotating presidents, which called only for negotiations on an FMCT, thus dropping its linkage to PAROS. The Chinese delegation rejected this programme of work, and continues calling for a “balanced and comprehensive programme of work,” though it has not specifically demanded simultaneous negotiations this year.
The Associated Press reported that Washington called the introduction of the draft “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage,” and said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s introduction of the treaty “came with an implied threat.” It noted Minister Lavrov’s comment “that the nuclear arms race was started with a view to preserving the monopoly to this type of weapons [sic], but this monopoly was to last only four years,” implying Lavrov meant Russia would “catch up” to the United States in developing space weapons just as it did with nuclear weapons. However, unreported by the Associated Press, Lavrov went on to lament the waste of material and other resources on weapons “at the expense of finding solutions to the problem of development.”
In addition, the Associated Press reported, “Washington rejects the [draft treaty] because it feels it is only directed at U.S. military technology and allows China and Russia to fire ground-based missiles into space or use satellites as weapons of war.” This statement exemplifies the spin put on issues that challenge US military dominance—the draft treaty would prohibit the use of space-based weapons by all states parties, not just the United States, and does not limit any state party’s use of ground-based missiles, not even the United States’.
The Associated Press article goes on to report, “The U.S. says it is committed to ensuring the use of space for peaceful purposes, but insists that it will pursue programs to ensure that its satellites and other spacecraft are protected.” However, the US delegation stood alone in voting against the annual PAROS resolution in the UNGA in 2005–2007, and released a National Space Policy in October 2006 opposing “the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space,” and arguing it will continue to “dissuade or deter others from impeding [its right to operate in space] . . . and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests.” In addition, its programs to “protect” its satellites and other spacecraft include some of the most aggressive technologies yet to be unleashed on the international community. Minister Lavrov noted in his introduction
It is well known that there is inseparable relationship between strategic offensive and defensive armaments ... The desire to acquire an anti-missile “shield” while dismantling the “sheath”, where the nuclear “sword” is kept is extremely dangerous. And if one also places on the balance pan the “global lightning strike” concept providing for striking with nuclear and conventional strategic means targets in any point of the Globe in a matter of an hour after a relevant decision has been made, the risks for strategy stability and predictability become more than obvious.
Response to the draft treaty in the CD Response to the draft in the CD has been limited, though several delegations have publically offered their perspectives in plenary meetings:
Argentina: On 3 March, Argentina's Foreign Minister Mr. Jorge Taiana welcomed the draft treaty. He suggested it could be fruitful to establish an ad hoc committee on the issue to explore it further.
Algeria: On 14 February, Algeria's Ambassador Hamza Khelif took note of draft PPWT, and indicated his delegation has communicated it to their capital for consideration. He said he would like discussions on the issues of outer space to provide sufficient time to examine the proposal. However, the draft PPWT is based on elements proposed in 2002 and on substantive discussions that took place in the CD in 2006 and 2007—it should not be new information for capitals.
Brazil: On 14 February, Ambassador Paranhos of Brazil welcomed the draft PPWT. In the past, the Brazilian delegation has been a strong proponent in the CD of preventing the weaponization of outer space, and in his farewell statement, Ambassador Paranhos said, “It is of utmost importance that this negotiating forum takes the lead in ensuring that the outer space remains a peaceful domain.”
Canada: On 12 February, welcoming “Russia’s efforts to energize discussions” on PPW, Canada’s Ambassador Grinius said his delegation had “submitted detailed comments” on the draft. He also highlighted the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC) as “a valuable and existing” transparency and confidence-building measure (TCBM) and suggested it would be unrealistic to create TCBMs ones when “existing ones ... are regrettably falling into disuse.” Ambassador Grinius also argued, “the dividing lines between civil and military issues in space are increasingly irrelevant in practical terms,” and called for greater cooperation among the UN’s space-related institutions and between the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the CD.
European Union: On 28 February, Mr. Jerman of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, said work is needed to achieve consensus on definitions and an “effective and robust verification system” for an outer space security treaty. He argued, “it is not sufficient to only refer to a possible future additional protocol” as suggested in the draft PPWT. In the meantime, Mr. Jerman said, the EU “wishes to focus on a pragmatic and incremental approach,” through transparency and confidence-building measures. The EU plans to present these measures to the CD for discussion. They will presumably be based on the concrete proposals that the EU submitted to the Secretary-General, which were included in his report of 17 September 2007.
Germany: On 19 February, Ambassador Bernhard Brasack of Germany welcomed the draft treaty. He argued, “Clear delimitations between purely peaceful uses and distinct military uses have become a meaningless fiction. Just as an example: Space tracking and surveillance capabilities for monitoring debris, following satellites for avoiding potential collisions, inherently also have a potential for offensive space applications.” With this in mind, Ambassador Brasack suggested elaboration through discussion on three issues “not yet sufficiently covered by the draft”: the relationship between a potential new instrument and the existing ones, particularly the Outer Space Treaty; the dangers posed by the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons; and compliance and verification mechanisms. He also remarked, however, that “meaningful discussions” in the CD on space security issues “will only be possible if the CD agrees to a Programme of Work.”
Group of 21: On 28 February, speaking on behalf of the Group of 21, Syria’s Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui raised concerns over the inadequate existing legal instruments “to deter further militarization of outer space or prevent its weaponization” and emphasized the necessity of further measures that effectively provide for verification. He further lamented the development of missile defense systems and other “advanced military technologies ... which have, inter alia, contributed to the further erosion of an international climate conducive to the promotion of disarmament and the strengthening of international security.” Ambassador Hamoui argued, “it is time to start negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament on matters related to the Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space,” and referred to UNGA Resolution 62/20, which recommends the establishment of an ad hoc committee in the CD in 2008. He said the draft treaty submitted by Russia and China “is a good basis for further discussion toward adopting an international binding instrument.”
Kazakhstan: On 4 March, the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan welcomed the draft treaty in the CD.
Malaysia: On 14 February, Malaysia's Ambassador Hsu King Bee said the draft PPWT is “a positive step,” and expressed hope “that the CD would set an objective to approach the issues in a comprehensive manner, engaging in structured substantive discussions with a view for an early commencement of negotiations, for an international legally binding treaty.” She also proposed the “establishment of Ad Hoc Committee with the appropriate mandate agreeable to all,” and called for a “moratorium on the testing of all kinds of weapons and on the deployment of weapons in outer space.”
Netherlands: On 4 March, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands welcomed the draft treaty in the CD.
Romania: On 4 March, the Foreign Minister of Romania welcomed the draft treaty in the CD.
Sri Lanka: On 12 February, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka congratulated China and Russia’s collaboration on the draft PPWT and “did not see why a fissile material treaty should take priority over the draft treaty submitted.”
Switzerland: On 14 February, Ambassador Jürg Streuli of Switzerland welcomed the draft treaty, though he said, “a number of technical and legal points still needed to be worked out,” and recognized the need to overcome “significant political obstacles.”
Ukraine: On 4 March, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine welcomed the draft treaty in the CD. Minister Khandogiy suggested that substantial discussion on outer space in the CD should focus on providing greater transparency of space programmes; expanding the scope of information about space objects in orbit; and developing rules of behaviour while performing activities in space, including establishing a Code of Conduct.
2011: A/RES/66/27, Prevention of an arms race in outer space 2010: A/RES/65/68, Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities 2007: A/62/114 and A/62/114/Add.1, Reports of the Secretary-General on TCBMs in outer space
21-22 March 2005: "Safeguarding Space Security: Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" (China, Russia, UNIDIR and The Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research joint working paper)
9 June 2005:"Definition Issues Regarding Legal Instruments on the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" (China and Russia joint non-paper)
25-26 March 2004: "Safeguarding Space for All: Security and Peaceful Uses" (report of workshop)
26 August 2004:"Verification Aspects of PAROS" (China and Russia joint non-paper)
26 August 2004:"Existing International Legal Instruments and Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" (China and Russia joint non-paper)
Many civil society organizations are active on issues of preventing the weaponization of outer space:
The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space is comprised of about 150 organizations worldwide. It has an annual meeting of experts and activists to bring attention to issues related to the militarization and weaponization of outer space, missile defence, and corporate profiteering by the space industry. The Global Network and WILPF sponsor the annual Keep Space for Peace Week every October.
The PAROS Working Group was formed in April 2008 at the annual organizing conference of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space by members of the Network and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). For more information about the working group, please contact Carol Urner at carol.disarm[at]gmail.com.
The Space Security Index is the only annual, comprehensive, and integrated assessment of space security. Based on eight indicators of space security, it provides background information and in-depth analysis on key trends and developments in the space field. It is published by Project Ploughshares.
The Secure World Foundation works with governments, industry, international organizations and civil society to develop and promote ideas and actions for international collaboration that achieve the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space.
Western States Legal Foundationmonitors and analyzes US nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy and weapons programs, including outer space technologies.
The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research is a voluntarily funded autonomous institute within the United Nations that brings together states, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia to build and implement creative solutions for disarmament that will benefit all states and peoples.