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Statement by Ambassador Hu Xiaodi for Disarmament Affairs of China at the Plenary of the Conference on Disarmament

2001-06-07 00:00

June 7, 2001 Geneva

Mr. President,

The Chinese delegation would like to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD). I am sure that your rich experience and outstanding capabilities will be conducive to facilitating the work of the CD. The Chinese delegation assures you of its full cooperation.

Mr. President,

Today I would like to focus my address on the issue of the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). China's position on this issue is very clear. We are committed to promoting the international community to negotiate and conclude a legally binding international instrument on the prevention of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. In February 2000, the Chinese delegation submitted to the CD a working paper (CD/1606) entitled "China's Position on and Suggestions for Ways to Address the Issue of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space at the Conference on Disarmament", which outlined China's tentative ideas on the above-mentioned international legal instrument. Since then, China has conducted further studies on relevant issues and envisages some basic elements for the future legal instrument.

Today, upon the instruction of the Chinese government, I submit a working paper entitled "Possible Elements of the Future International Legal Instrument on the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space". I have already requested that this paper be circulated as an official CD document.

The paper contains elements of such substantial articles as the Name of the Instrument, Preamble, Basic Obligations, Definition, National Measures for Implementation, Peaceful Use of Outer Space, Confidence Building Measures, Verification Measures, Settlement of Disputes, Executive Organization of the Legal Instrument. It also includes elements of some "procedural articles" commonly found in international legal instruments, such as Amendment, Duration and Withdrawal, Signature and Ratification, Entry into Force and Authentic Texts.

According to the paper, the future international legal instrument could be entitled "Treaty on the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space". Its basic obligations could cover four main areas, namely, not to test, deploy, or use in outer space any weapons, weapon systems or their components; not to test, deploy or use on land, in sea or atmosphere any weapons, weapon systems or their components that can be used for war-fighting in outer space; not to use any objects launched into orbit to directly participate in combatant activities; not to assist or encourage other countries, regions, international organizations or entities to participate in activities prohibited by this legal instrument. Under the above-mentioned basic obligations, all space-based weapons and all weapons attacking outer space targets from the earth are to be prohibited once for all.

The paper also contains preliminary proposals on the definitions of "Outer Space", "Weapons", "Weapon systems" and "Components of weapon systems". Owing to the complexity and sensitivity of the verification issue, the paper offers no specific ideas in this connection. This issue could be substantiated by all experts participating in the course of negotiation. Since all the elements have been outlined in the paper, I will not go further into details.

I wish to emphasize that the treaty elements described in the working paper are still very preliminary in nature, awaiting further revision, polishing and improvement by the joint efforts from all sides. We are open-minded and stand ready to work with all other delegations, with a view to concluding at an early date an international legal instrument preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space through serious negotiations.

Mr. President,

What is the necessity to negotiate and conclude an international legal instrument preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space right now? Is it premature to propose these treaty elements? If we have a serious examination of the current state of outer space utilization and the relevant developments in outer space, it will not be difficult to draw the conclusion that negotiating such an international legal instrument is not only necessary, but also a pressing task in the field of multilateral arms control and disarmament.

With the information era ushered in, a great amount of civil activities such as communication, navigation, meteorology and some scientific experiments are more and more dependent on outer space. Whether outer space will be utilized rationally to ensure its peace and stability will have important bearing on world peace and the future of mankind. However, it is well known that outer space is now faced with the danger of being weaponized, which manifests itself in two aspects, namely the development of the missile defense program and the "space control" plan.

It has been made clear that the missile defense system currently under research and development will "go beyond" the constraints of the ABM treaty. The missile defense system will undoubtedly incorporate space weapon systems. Some of these space weapon systems may be based in outer space, providing target information and guidance for weapon systems located on earth, or attacking ground targets from space, rendering the outer space a battlefield. Other space weapon systems may be based in space or on earth to intercept and destroy space targets.

The long-term strategic military space development plan, "Vision 2020", which was put forward in 1998, explicitly states that military space capability will constitute the main force in implementing national security and military strategy, and its primary goal in the 21st century is to grab space superiority. In this connection, the combatant theory of assuring space superiority has been initiated. What is equally alarming is the "space war exercise" which took place in late January 2001. The exercise used outer space as the battlefield and its scenario was set to happen in 2017. Anti-Satellite weapons, strategic missile defense systems and land-based laser weapons were envisaged in the exercise to attack space targets. Not long ago, the country concerned adjusted the management and organization mechanism of its national security-related space activities in accordance with the recommendations of a relevant report. According to that report, there is a danger of "Space Pearl Harbor"; means must be developed "both to deter and to defend against hostile acts in and from space" and new military capabilities are required "for operation to, from, in and through space".

The above developments clearly demonstrate that the weaponization of outer space is by no means a remote issue. Rather, the danger is imminent and the issue most urgent. For any preventive measure to have effect, the international community must act right away. Otherwise, the window of opportunity would soon close. Should outer space weapons be developed and deployed in the first place and then put under control, like the case of nuclear weapons, any effort to control them would once again meet with enormous obstacles and difficulties. Whether it is wise to sit on our hands watching outer space being weaponized, leaving "outer space disarmament" or "prevention of outer space weapons proliferation" for future consideration, or to start negotiations to prevent the weaponization of outer space right now, I think the answer to this question is self-evident.

Mr. President,

If any country is really worried about possible menace to its space interests, this could certainly be alleviated through the negotiation and conclusion of a treaty on the prevention of space weaponization, as suggested by China. Whether big or small of any State's space capability, such a treaty will be able to guarantee that its space interests and assets are equally protected. As a result, all countries could channel their resources for the peaceful exploration and use of outer space only, thus benefiting the whole humanity. Such a legally binding international treaty will be the best tool to safeguard the interests of all sides.

However, if the real motivation towards outer space is to defy the obligations of international legal instruments and seek unilateral and absolute military and strategic superiority based on the political, economic and military strength, it would be another matter. In a nutshell, the weaponization of outer space will be detrimental to the interests and security of each and every State, including the very one that introduces weapons into outer space. Its consequences will be most serious and in no one's interest.

Mr. President,

Outer space is the common heritage of mankind. I am convinced that it is the common aspiration of all peoples to enjoy a peaceful and quiet outer space, rather than shadowed by weapons and battlefields in outer space. As the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, the Conference on Disarmament should play its due role in this regard. In this connection, China put forward a draft PAROS mandate in its working paper CD/1606. The delegation of the Russian Federation has also proposed a negotiating mandate for a CD Ad Hoc Committee on PAROS in its recently circulated document (CD/1644), which China fully supports. We reiterate our call to all countries to negotiate and conclude an international legal instrument on the prevention of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, on the basis of strict compliance with existing multilateral and bilateral treaties and agreements applicable to outer space.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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