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Statement by Ambassador Fu Cong on the Overall Situation of Outer Space at the Working Group on the 'Way Ahead'

(Geneva, 14 June 2017)

Mr. Friend of the Chair,

The Chinese delegation appreciates your assistance to Ambassador Lynn in facilitating the substantive discussion on the issue of ‘Prevention of an arms race in outer space’. We also wish to thank Mr. Pellegrino from UNIDIR for his comprehensive introduction.

In-depth exploration, within the framework of the Working Group on the Way Ahead, of the issue of PAROS, a major issue that bears on the security, stability and long-term sustainability of outer space, will enhance mutual understanding and bridge differences among parties in our common pursuit of security and stability in outer space and its sustainable development. I wish to take this opportunity to state China’s positions on this issue.

The exploration and utilization of outer space over the last 60 or more years have given a major boost to the development of human society. There are currently over 60 countries conducting space activities and over 1000 satellites in orbit. The dividends of space technology have benefited all areas of the economy, society, livelihood and security, so much so that outer space has become indispensable to the daily life of mankind. Advances in space applications have been accompanied by an increase in the challenges facing both the security and development of outer space. Outer space security has become a strategic issue interwoven with the survival and development of mankind.

On the one hand, China has never denied the fact that orbital crowding, radio frequency interference increasing debris in space have resulted in deterioration of the space environment and posed a huge challenge to mankind in its continued utilization of outer space. This is an inevitable problem in the course outer space development. Countries have demonstrated their will to cooperate in addressing the issue through the UN and other multilateral and bilateral frameworks. Positive progress has been registered in this regard.

On the other hand, China takes the view that it is the weaponization of outer space and the resultant conflicts and arms race in outer space that pose the most fundamental challenge to long-term security and stability.

Over recent years, with outer space gaining strategic prominence, a certain country has been striving for absolute security and strategic advantage, as shown by its increasing R and D on outer space weapons and its evolving and maturing space strategy to secure dominance over outer space. Some of its space-based weapons has achieved deployment and battle readiness. Although no country so far has announced deployment of outer space weapons, we have noted with concern the gradual slide of mankind towards the abyss of weaponization of outer space and an arms race in outer space.

Once deployed in outer space, weapons systems will be far more dangerous than space debris. If left unchecked, the trend towards outer space weaponization will not only destroy outer space environment, but also worsen the global security environment to the extreme:

I. Increased cost of space activities. Outer space assets are vulnerable to attacks due to characteristics of space activities. It is not hard to imagine that, given the ‘unfriendly’ environment in a weaponized outer space, countries will be forced to invest heavily in the protection of their space assets from ‘asymmetrical’ attacks.

II. Strategic miscalculation and escalation of conflicts. As a result of advances in outer space technological automation, pre-authorized measures of automatic protection and counter-attack may lead to misjudgment of accidents and escalation of conflicts. The extensive application of information technology has increased the probability of cyber attacks on space assets. Such attacks, difficult to attribute, will likely trigger miscalculation and escalation of conflicts as well.

III. Extreme deterioration of the space environment. When conflicts reach a certain tip point, it may be inevitable for a cold war to escalate into active warfare. In such a case, a large amount of debris, even an cascade of debris, will be produced and any attempt at reducing space debris will be rendered futile.

IV. Outer space arms race. The strategic orientation of leading outer space powers will determine the overall dynamics of outer space security. Development and deployment of outer space weapons will undermine strategic mutual trust and incite other countries into a frenzy of catching up or developing ‘counter measures’ for self-protection. Given the large number of countries engaged in space activities, a multi-level comprehensive arms race in outer space will create a precarious tension in outer space.

V. Disruption of global strategic balance and stability. Military capabilities in outer space are intimately related to such strategic forces as nuclear weapons and missiles. Outer space weaponization not only leads to further deterioration of international strategic balance, substantially increases the risk of cyber and nuclear conflict, but also renders progress in nuclear disarmament even harder, thus further worsening the global security environment. In this context, the issue of outer space security should be viewed from an overall global security perspective, in stead of as an isolated issue.

Mr. Friend of the Chair,

It was in line with the appeal of the international community to strengthen the outer space security regime for the purposes of curbing the trend toward space weaponization and the embryonic space arms race that China and Russia tabled the draft PPWT Treaty to the CD in 2008. China will elaborate its positions on the PPWT during the discussion on Friday.

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