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The CD Should Assume Its Historic Responsibility for PAROS
----- Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Li Song in the CD on PAROS
2019/06/14

Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues,

The Chinese delegation would like to thank Your Excellency for organizing this meeting and guiding all parties in-depth discussions on PAROS. This meeting is conducive not only to advancing CD’s substantive work, but also to deepening understanding and widening thinking among all parties in a common endeavor to seek solutions and directions for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Ever since its entry into outer space, humankind has been devoted to maintaining peace and tranquility in outer space. Through documents such as the UNGA resolution on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space in 1958, the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, and in particular the Final Document of SSOD I in 1978 and the UNGA resolution on General and Complete Disarmament in 1981, the international community has explicitly identified PAROS as one of the most important objectives for maintaining international peace and security and ensuring lasting peace in outer space, with the status of PAROS in global security governance no less significant than the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.

Since the 1970s, the CD has been entrusted with the important mission of deliberations on PAROS, and has established an ad hoc committee for 10 consecutive years to work on the topic. Since 1981, the UNGA has adopted every year by an overwhelming majority a resolution, emphasizing the importance and urgency of PAROS and calling on the CD to negotiate international legally binding instruments. In view of the long-standing difficulties in starting negotiations on relevant treaties, some people have maintained that as the weaponization of outer space is already unavoidable and discussions on PAROS are no longer pertinent, instead of wasting energy on negotiating legal instruments, it will be better to pay more attention to the issue of space security and focus the efforts of the international community on the formulation of codes of conduct and implementation of TCBMs. Such views are very dangerous. After all, our aim is to prevent outer space from becoming a new battleground like the land, the seas and oceans and airspace, instead of merely formulating “traffic rules” for outer space. Otherwise, sooner or later these “traffic rules” will eventually become rules of combat for outer space. History has shown that no arms control and disarmament in any field can be achieved only through TCBMs. Just as non-nuclear weapon states will not give up the objective of a world without nuclear weapons because of improving nuclear security, the overwhelming majority of the international community will not agree to give up prevention of weaponization and an arms race in outer space because of strengthening space security. This is an original objective of mankind for ensuring space security. It also constitutes a moral force of deterrence.

Mr. President,

At present, the situation of global strategic security is undergoing profound readjustments and the characteristic of outer space as a new frontier of strategic security is more evident. Driven by its strategy for dominance in outer space, one superpower on the one hand has consistently resisted outer space arms control treaties on PAROS, and on the other hand has explicitly identified outer space as a new theater of war, vigorously pushed forward the building of outer space military capabilities, set up military alliances for outer space, and has planned to introduce missile defense systems into outer space. Especially in a new situation in which the relevant country attempts to shake off the restriction of bilateral nuclear arms control treaty and freely develop strategic offensive and defensive capabilities, due to strategic significance of space weapons and the important connection between weapons development plans of the relevant country, the real threat of weaponization of and an arms race in outer space seems imminent.

China has always been committed to PAROS and over the years has made unremitting efforts, together with Russia and other countries, to push for negotiations on legally binding instruments at the CD. In 2014, China and Russia submitted to the CD an updated version of “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects” (PPWT), which remains the only text to serve as the basis for negotiations. Based on the reality of international political security and development of space technology, the China-Russia draft has put forward a feasible approach for the international community to prevent the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space in a legally binding form, namely, prohibition of deployment of weapons in outer space and of the use or threat of force against space objects, leaving the issue of verification to be resolved in the form of an additional protocol later, and TCBMs can be regarded as voluntary measures complementary to treaty implementation. I would like to reiterate that this is an open text and that we have no intention to impose it on others. We welcome in-depth discussions by all parties to improve the text, as this is conducive to CD’s substantive preparations for negotiating a international legally binding instrument on outer space.

The work of the UN Gvernmental Group of Experts on PAROS this year also constitutes a major effort of all parties for arms control in outer space. During the session, all parties conducted in-depth discussion on major elements of legal instruments. My colleague who participated in this work told me that the discussion was the most in-depth and substantive on arms control in outer space in decades. Although due to objection from only one country, the GGE was unable to adopt a substantive report to be submitted to the UNGA, yet in the view of many countries, the work of the GGE that failed at the last moment still deserves full recognition, as it can be regarded as an important basis for the CD to further push forward relevant works related to negotiations on an international legally binding instrument.

We would like to express our great appreciation for the work of the Chairman Ambassador Patriota and other members of the GGE.

Mr. President,

Not long ago, at the 2019 Space Security Conference organized by UNIDIR, all parties once again conducted extensive and in-depth exchanges on space security. Many participants emphasized the practical significance and urgency of the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Frankly speaking, against the backdrop in which one major power increasingly disregards the value and significance of multilateral mechanisms and international treaties and actively advances its offensive military strategy of outer space, the prospects for the PPWT are less than bright. Yet pessimism cannot resolve any problems. It is precisely at the challenging moment of deteriorating international security environment that we must bear clearly in mind our original objectives, make concrete efforts, encourage the CD to assume its historic duties, and by relying on common efforts of the CD members and international conscience, check the urge for hegemony in outer space by certain country and unswervingly prevent weaponization of and an arms race in outer space.The Chinese delegation would like to make the following suggestions for the next stage of the CD’s work.

First, continue taking the conclusion of international legally binding instruments on the prevention of the weaponization and an arms race in outer space through negotiations as the clear objective of CD’s work under the item of PAROS. As the only authoritative negotiating forum for multilateral disarmament, the CD has an unshirkable responsibility in this area with an irreplaceable role to play.

Second, pending the formal start of negotiations on the legally binding instrument, drawing upon the existing inputs on outer space from all its members, the CD should fully utilize the work of the UN GGE and conduct extensive technical discussions on issues such as the scope, obligations, verification, definitions and transparency measures to fully prepare for negotiations in the future.

Thirdly, the CD should further open up and strengthen contact with bodies such as the Commission on Disarmament, COPUOS, and the First and Fourth Committees of the UNGA. It should also pay attention to exchanges with the space industry and academia, and through various means such as inviting relevant actors to share their views with CD members, widen our vision and deepen our understanding, so as to bring new dynamism into the substantive work of the CD on PAROS.

Distinguished colleagues,

CD’s important responsibilities are our mission. Let us make concerted efforts to ensure that Star Wars stay away from the reality of security for humankind and remain forever science-fiction from Hollywood.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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