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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Shen Jian at the Thematic Debate on Outer Space of the 78th Session of UNGA First Committee

2023-10-20 21:24

Mr. Chair,

Today, outer space is facing increasingly severe security challenges. It is imperative for the international community to work together to prevent the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, and to build a community with a shared future for mankind in outer space. The Chinese delegation has presented China’s general positions in this regard during the general debate, and would like to take the opportunity to elaborate further.

Firstly, we should adhere to the international consensus on the peaceful uses of outer space. The outer space is global commons. Maintaining the lasting peace and security of outer space bears on the security, development and prosperity of all countries, as well as the well-being of all mankind.

Regrettably, certain countries are obsessed with great power competition and cold war mentality, and pursuing dominance in outer space,  through declaring outer space as a war-fighting domain, accelerating the build-up of their space military capabilities, forging military alliance in outer space, and even planning to deploy missile defense weapons in outer space. Meanwhile, they are using commercial space companies as a cover for military development and involvement in armed conflicts. Such doctrines, policies and measures pose serious threat to the security of outer space, undermine global strategic stability, and aggravate the risk of an arms race in outer space.

In the meantime, certain countries overstretch the national security concept, abuse unilateral sanction measures, arbitrarily suppress the scientific research activities and technology development of other states in outer space, and seriously impede the peaceful uses of outer space and relevant international cooperation.

China advocates that all countries should adhere to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, commit themselves to ensuring the peaceful nature of the use of outer space, and fully guarantee the inalienable right of states to peaceful exploration and the use of outer space.

China has all along upheld the principle of exploration and the use of outer space for the well-being of the entire humanity, safeguarded the international order in outer space with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 as the cornerstone, and carried out international cooperation in outer space on the basis of equality, mutual respect, peaceful use and inclusive development.

Secondly, we should advance the negotiation of a legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). In 1978, the First Special Session on Disarmament of the UN (SSOD-1) explicitly called for achieving the goal of PAROS through appropriate negotiations. Over four decades, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted resolutions on PAROS on a yearly basis by an overwhelming majority, requesting the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate a new international legally-binding instrument on PAROS. Achieving peace and security of outer space through negotiation of a legally binding instrument on PAROS has become a consensus of the international community.

It is of concern that certain individual country is unwilling to accept any substantial constraints on its military capabilities in outer space, and rejected the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument on PAROS, which leads to the stalemate in the relevant process.

China and Russia jointly submitted to the CD a Draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat of Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), which has received broad support and recognition from the international community. This draft treaty could be a sound basis for the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument on outer space arms control. China welcomes constructive comments and suggestions from all states on specific issues concerning the draft.

Thirdly, we should coordinate the global governance on outer space security. The CD and the UN Disarmament Commission have conducted in-depth discussions on PAROS. Last year, the subsidiary body established by the CD agreed on a report on PAROS. This year, the UNDC reached consensus on the recommendations to promote Transparency and Confidence-building Measures (TCBMs) in outer space activities. China welcomes these progress.

In recent years, relevant work was conducted under the framework of UN in the forms of Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ending Working Group (OEWG). However, due to the differences on the concept of governance on outer space security, the last GGE on PAROS and the OEWG on Reducing Space Threats through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviors fell short of an outcome.

The GGE on PAROS held in 2018 and 2019 carried out fruitful work and in-depth discussions on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument. China looks forward to further recommendations related to substantial elements of a legally binding instrument on PAROS, building on the basis of the previous work.

In order to continue the discussion on PAROS and the negotiation of a legally binding instrument, China and Russia have tabled a resolution titled Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, and called for the establishment of UN OEWG on PAROS, aiming to focus on all potential substantial elements of a legally binding instrument on PAROS. We hope for active support from all states.

It is noted that many countries still have deep concerns over the work of the OEWG on reducing space threats, including the dichotomy of responsible and irresponsible behaviors, confusing the concept of outer space security and the safety of peaceful use of the outer space, and not focusing on the negotiation of a legally binding instrument on PAROS. China hopes certain countries could give adequate consideration of and attention to these concerns, in order to avoid following the same road of the previous OEWG on Reducing Space Threats through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviors.

Mr. Chair,

China also noted that some countries have expressed concerns over the parallel processes on PAROS under the UN framework. China is convinced that the fundamental approach to maintain security in outer space lies in the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument on PAROS. The international efforts should be focused on this approach, and such efforts should not be diverted or replaced. China expects that all parties uphold the true multilateralism, coordinate different proposals and efforts to form a truly effective synergy, so as to realize the early commencement of the negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding instrument on PAROS.

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

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