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Statement on PAROS by H.E. Mr. Cheng Jingye, Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs of China, at the Plenary of the Conference on Disarmament

Mr. President,

First of all, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to you on your assumption of the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD). I am very glad that the Conference will undertake focused debate on the "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" (PAROS) under your guidance, which we believe will yield fruitful results. You can count on the full cooperation of the Chinese Delegation. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Secretariat for the compilation of the basic documents.

Mr. President,

The Chinese Delegation welcomes the focused debate on PAROS. It is the first time over recent years that we have an opportunity to conduct in-depth discussions on this important issue which has been on the agenda of the CD since 1982. As a matter of fact, as early as in the late 1950s when the exploration of outer space by mankind just started, how to secure the peaceful use of outer space was under the deliberation of the UN General Assembly. Several decades later, this issue has proved more important and urgent today and safeguarding outer space security has increasingly become the consensus of the international community.

Over the past five decades and more, the exploration and utilization of outer space has given a giant impetus to the development of human society. The outer space, like the land, the ocean and the sky, has become an integral part of our life on which we increasingly depend. Peaceful use of outer space is the common aspiration of peoples of all countries.

However, outer space technologies, a two-edged sword like nuclear and coloning technologies, can either contribute to the well-being of mankind or cause severe detriment to the world if applied improperly or without control. During the Cold War, we witnessed an arms race in outer space, which, fortunately, did not lead to weaponization of outer space. Yet the end of the Cold War has not dispersed this shadow. The development of outer space weapons keeps progressing quietly, and relevant military doctrine is taking shape. The deployment of weapons in outer space would bring unimaginable consequences. The outer space assets of all countries would be endangered, mankind's peaceful use of outer space threatened, and international peace and security undermined. It is in the interest of all countries to protect the humanity from the threat of outer space weapons.

It is true that so far there are still no weapons in outer space, but this should not become our excuse for sitting idly by. Drawing lessons from the past, we have in recent years underscored the necessity of preventive diplomacy in the UN and in other multilateral arenas. The outer space is just one such field that requires our preventive efforts. Prevention is far better than facing the consequences. The history of the development of nuclear weapons constantly reminds us that once outer space weapons become full-fledged, how difficult it would be to control them and to prevent their proliferation, let alone to eliminate them. We simply cannot afford to delay actions and wait until the deployment of outer space weapons and an arms race in outer space become a reality. The price would be too high. As s result, we should spare no efforts to avoid repeating the history of nuclear weapon development, and the effective way to achieve this goal is to conclude a new international legal instrument.

It is true that we already have some international legal instruments in this field, such as, inter alia, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1979 Moon Agreement and the 1972 ABM Treaty, which contributed significantly to preventing arms race in outer space. However, all of them have apparent lacunae. Some focus on the WMD only, some are limited to a certain celestial body or area in outer space and lack universality, and some have even been scrapped. In order to remedy the lacunae and close the loopholes of existing legal framework and fundamentally prevent the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, a new international legal instrument is obviously needed.

Mr. President,

The Chinese Delegation is of the view that there is a sound basis and the conditions are ripe for negotiating such a legal instrument. It is time for us to carry out the substantive work.

Firstly, we enjoy broad political support. Over the recent 20 odd years, the UNGA has annually adopted, by overwhelming majority, the resolution on PAROS, in which the GA calls for the negotiation of an international agreement on PAROS. Last year, the number of Member States voting in favor of the resolution amounted to as many as 180. An overwhelming majority of the CD members agree to establish an Ad Hoc Committee dedicated to PAROS. It is fair to say that initiating the substantive work on PAROS at an early date conforms to the common will of the international community.

Secondly, the CD has had the experience of establishing an Ad Hoc Committee dealing with PAROS. For 10 consecutive years from 1985 to 1994, an Ad Hoc Committee was created on definition, principles, existing legal instruments and confidence-building measures, etc.. Though the Committee did not achieve tangible results given the circumstances in those years, it surely built a good basis for our work today.

Thirdly, there has been growing awareness and broader common ground on the importance of PAROS in the international community. In recent years, various seminars on this subject have been held. The UNIDIR, in collaboration with parties concerned, has convened in Geneva five international conferences on outer space in succession, during which many valuable ideas and proposals were expressed. Though their views on the ways and methods to deal with the outer space issue might vary, all participants shared a common understanding that preventing weaponization of outer space and maintaining outer space security serves the interests of all countries.

Last but not least, the framework of a new legal instrument on outer space is taking shape. In 2002, seven countries, namely, Russia, China, Indonesia, Belarus, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Syria, jointly presented to the CD the working paper entitled "Possible Elements for a Future International Legal Agreement on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects", contained in CD/1679. The document, in a form of treaty, puts forward detailed proposals on all composing elements of a new legal instrument on outer space, which provides a clear and feasible blueprint for our future work. In addition, China and the Russian Federation have jointly submitted to the CD four thematic papers regarding definition, verification, transparency and confidence-building measures, etc..

Mr. President,

It is our view that PAROS, together with other main CD agenda items, has a bearing on global security, which is closely linked to the maintenance of world peace and stability and therefore they all deserve serious consideration by the CD. A world free of outer space weapons is no less important than a world free of the WMD.

From time to time, we have heard the assertion of the so-called "linkage". Isn't it a form of "linkage" when some people insist on negotiating one issue, while refusing to conduct any substantive work on others? Each and every country has its one's own priority. To focus exclusively on one's own priority, while disregarding the priorities of others, would only lead to an unbreakable deadlock of CD. As it is known to all, China is in favor of negotiation on PAROS and this position remains unchanged. However, in order to help bring this body back to substantive work, we have demonstrated repeated flexibility. In August 2003, we agreed to the mandate for Ad Hoc Committee on PAROS contained in "Five Ambassador's Proposal" (CD/1693/Rev. 1) and indicated our readiness to join in the consensus on this Proposal.

China shares the concerns of all sides over the protracted deadlock of the CD, and likewise hopes for a positive turnaround in the CD as soon as possible. The "Five Ambassador's Proposal" accepted by the vast majority of members offers a practical and feasible way out. I would like to stress that, any idea that aims at circumventing the "program of work" and initiating negotiation solely on one issue while refraining from substantive work on other issues will not fly.

The Chinese experts are ready in the coming days to have in-depth exchanges of views with all sides on the definition, scope, transparency, confidence-building measures and assets security in outer space, with a view to further enriching our discussion on outer space. It is our belief that this debate will help create the conditions for the CD to agree on a "program of work" and to begin substantive work on PAROS in the near future.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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