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IV. China and the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of the Outer Space
2004/04/19

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of the Outer Space (hereinafter referred to as COPUOS) has two subcommittees, the Science and Technology Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. In 2000, Chinese delegations attended the 43rd session of the COPUOS, the 37th Session of the Science and Technology Subcommittee and the 39th Session of the Legal Subcommittee. These sessions were held at the UN Office in Vienna.

The present COPUOS elected its new presidium (2000-2002). Raimundo Gonzalez of Chile was elected chairman. Driss El Hadani of Morocco was elected first vice chairman and Harijono Djojodihardjo of Indonesia was elected second vice chairman and concurrently reporter.

The major items of the present COPUOS were forms and methods for maintaining the use of the outer space for peaceful purposes, the reports of the present sessions of the Science and Technology Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee and the incidental interests of space technology. The Chinese Delegation participated in the reviewing of the items.

(1) Forms and Methods for Maintaining the Use of the Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

This item remained as the priority item for reviewing at the present COPUOS. During the session, the question of the prevention of arms race in the outer space caused extensive concern among the states. The Russian delegate pointed out that arms race in the outer space was intolerable to the international society; the existing treaties and principles were not sufficient to legally ensure the complete demilitarization of the outer space; therefore, it was necessary to formulate further legal principles to ensure the demilitarization of the outer space. Russia also stressed the importance of strictly abiding by and safeguarding the "Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty". Some delegations endorsed the establishment of certain working linkage between the COPUOS and the Committee on Disarmament Negotiation as these two institutions were mutually complimentary in promoting the peaceful use of the outer space and the prevention of arms race in the outer space.

The Chinese Delegation pointed out in its intervention that the final purpose of exploring the outer space and its utilization was to create for mankind an even finer space for existence and development. The outer space activities undertaken by various states should benefit the friendly cooperation between the states and social progress, benefit the maintenance of universal peace and security of the international society. The development and experimentation of weapon systems in the outer space could lead to its militarization and touch off arms race in the outer space. This ran counter to the currents of the present time,was not in conformity with the basic principles on peaceful use of the outer space as contained in The Treaty on the Outer Space and was not conducive to the maintenance of world peace and security. The COPUOS should make greater efforts in the prevention of the militarization of and arms race in the outer space.

The committee held that the present efforts should be continued ; the COPUOS's role in keeping the outer space for peaceful purposes should be strengthened and decided that its next session would continue to review this item as a priority item.

(2) The Report of the Science and Technology Subcommittee

The present session of the Science and Technology Subcommittee was its first session after the convocation of the UNISPACE III in 1999. One of the focal jobs of this session was to implement the proposals of the UNISPACE III which was an important international conference convened under the UN aegis at the turn of the century on the issue of the outer space. The report of the UNISPACE III and the Vienna Declaration on the Outer Space and Human Development in particular is a document of historic significance. It would produce positive impact on promoting space science and technology to serve peaceful purposes, enhancing international cooperation in the field of the outer space and propelling the economic development and social progress of the states. The states unanimously agreed that the Science and Technology Subcommittee should be responsible for the discussion of the recommendations of the UNISPACE III and the implementation of its relevant working program and reach unanimity through consultation for the final approval or revision of the committee.

Under this item, Canada and the U.S. jointly tabled a document, proposing the setting up of an informal working group with the participation of NGOs and NGEs to implement the objectives of the UNISPACE III; the US submitted another document entitled "The Outer Space and the Society". Both documents aimed at enhancing the role of the NGOs, the NGEs and the private enterprises and whittling down the role of the COPUOS and the states. They were opposed by the great majority of states including China, France and Germany and were not adopted.

In accordance with the recommendation of the UNISPACE III, the 54th General Assembly decided, starting from 2000, to name October 4 to 10 as the" World Space Week", requiring member states to organizing relevant activities of celebration. The UN Office of Outer Space Affairs carried out extensive publicity of the "World Space Week" through the news media and the internet and held activities of celebration in New York, Vienna and Geneva. The member states briefed the committee on the relevant activities they would hold to celebrate the first " World Space Week". China was one of the major sponsoring states of the "World Space Week". The Chinese Government worked out its program to celebrate the 2000 World Space Week and briefed the conference on the main theme of the activities, i.e. "Publicize Science, Oppose Superstition and Fake Science"and the various commemorative activities it intended to organize. China's program of celebration won positive comments from the COPUOS.

The Chinese delegate also gave a briefing on the achievements of the Chinese space endeavors in the year past. China successfully launched Experiment No.5 scientific experimental satellite, the 4th polar orbital weather satellite and the Chinese-Brazilian earth resource satellite; the Long March carrier rockets set up the record of 19 continuous launching successes; in November 1999, China successfully launched and recovered for the first time the manned experimental spaceship. This was yet another new milestone in the history of China's space endeavors. China would make further efforts and contributions to the cause of space endeavors of mankind and would strive for the realization of manned space flight in the early 21st century.

The Chinese delegate reiterated its commitment to provide the developing states mid-term and long-term scholarships through the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs and the Asian-Pacific Economic and Social Council and to provide both with 8 scholarships for space technology training. China's offers were appreciated by the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs and the participating states to the conference.

(4) The Report of the Legal Subcommittee

Under this item, Russia proposed the formulation of a separate comprehensive convention on the outer space and tabled jointly with China and Bulgaria a working paper, recommending the inclusion in the agenda for the next session of the Legal Subcommittee the item entitled "The Propriety and Feasibility of Discussing the Formulation of an Universal and comprehensive International Convention on the Outer Space". This draft resolution received explicit support of the great majority of the states. Greece, Columbia and Iran participated as sponsor states. However, due to the objection of the US and Japan, this session failed to reach consensus.

Besides, under this item, the session also reviewed the definition and delimitation of the outer space, the nature and utilization of the geo-stationary orbits and the principles for using nuclear power source in the outer space and the concept of "the launching state". The session also approved the document entitled "Some Issues on the Utilization of the Geo-stationary Orbits" adopted by the present Legal Subcommittee. This document was an important achievement of the Legal Subcommittee. This document reiterated that satellite orbits and radio frequencies were limited natural resources, which should be utilized rationally, efficiently, economically and peacefully. To implement this principle, it advanced a specific recommendation, i.e. when the various states needed consultations between them for utilizing satellite orbits, the relevant countries should made arrangements on equal footing and abide by the radio ordinance of the ITU. This recommendation was a development of the principle of fair utilization of geo-stationary orbits and had important guiding significance.

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