|Statement by Mr. Wang Qun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Disarmament Affairs, at the Thematic Debate on Outer Space at the 63rd Session of the UNGA First Committee
(New York, 20 October 2008)
Not long ago, China successfully completed ShenZhou VII manned space mission. This scientific and research practice is another feat on China's journey to explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes, and ascend the peak of science and technology. It is a significant contribution to the peaceful use of outer space by mankind.
This test makes us recognize once again that the distance between space and mankind is getting closer. Just like land, ocean and sky, space has already become an indispensible part of human life. With the rapid development of space technology, space systems have been widely applied in communication, navigation, remote sense, early warning of disasters, weather forecast and other relevant fields. The reliance of mankind on outer space increases with every passing day. It's fair to say, the application of outer space is closely related to the well-being of all peoples.
However, the shadow of the weaponization of outer space has lingered since the day mankind entered space. As it has been recognized by an increasing number of officials and scholars, after over half a century, the "high frontier" of outer space has not become safer. Particularly in recent years, outer space has been attached more and more strategic and security considerations. Space has been considered as the strategic commanding point, and a domain for establishing strategic and military superiority. As certain countries continue to advance missile defense programs, the possibility for missile defense systems entering into space increases. The threat of the weaponization of outer space is getting increasingly immediate.
In the meantime, it is a pity that the legal regime on outer space has stayed at the level in 1960s' and 1970s', which is not in line with the ever developing exploration of outer space and rapid progress in space technology. It cannot be denied that the existing international legal system on outer space has played an important role in maintaining space security. However, it cannot keep weapons that are not WMDs out of space, or prevent use or threat of force against outer space objects. As the situation develops, it no longer satisfies the needs for maintaining long-term tranquility in outer space.
China is of the view that in order to avoid the vicious circle of armament, disarmament, and counter proliferation, it is an urgent task to make up the loopholes in existing outer space legal system by negotiating a new legal instrument to prevent the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. The international community has already reached common understandings on this. The United Nations General Assembly has, for over 2 decades, adopted resolutions of "Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" by an overwhelming majority of votes, calling for negotiation of an international legal instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
China has always stood for concluding an international legal instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space through negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. For years, China, Russia and other relevant countries have made a lot of efforts in this regard. This February, China and Russia jointly submitted to the CD the draft of "Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects". This draft treaty is based on the working documents submitted to the CD by China, Russia and other relevant countries, and has taken into consideration the feedbacks of parties concerned. It has been welcomed by the majority of the members of the CD. The draft treaty has laid a foundation for international community to negotiate a new legal instrument on outer space. It marks a significant step towards improving the outer space legal system.
This March, China, together with the UNIDIR and other relevant parties, co-hosted a seminar entitled "Space Security: Next Generation" in Geneva. In August, China and Russia hosted an open-ended discussion on the issue of the prevention of an arms race in outer space. These occasions have provided platforms for in-depth discussions on the draft treaty proposed by China and Russia. Questions such as the basic obligations, definition, and verification mechanism of the draft treaty have been discussed by parties concerned in a frank manner. A lot of constructive suggestions and proposals have been put forward, which has contributed greatly to further improvements on the draft treaty.
China has noticed that some countries, regions and academic institutions have made some suggestions in formulating transparency and confidence building measures in outer space. These proposals are conducive to maintaining space security. China has all along been open to participating in relevant discussions by the international community. At the same time, we also think that TCBMs are not legally binding, therefore cannot take the place of a new international legal instrument on outer space. Moreover, to negotiate a new legal instrument on outer space will enhance mutual trusts among countries, and in turn will be helpful to the conduction of TCBMs. Therefore, TCBMs in outer space are meaningful only in the framework of the legal instrument.
As mankind moves further in the path of exploring and using outer space, the task of preventing the weaponization of outer space and maintaining space security is getting more and more urgent. China is ready to join hands with all parties concerned to improve international legal system on outer space, so as to keep space clean of any weapons, for the well-beings of all the mankind.