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Statement by Counselor Ji Haojun on the PPWT at the Working Group on the 'Way Ahead'
2017/06/22

(Geneva, 16 June 2017)

Mr. Friend of the Chair,

The international legal regime based on the Outer Space Treaty has established the basic principles for the peaceful use of outer space and has excluded nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction from outer space, thus making a huge contribution to lasting peace, security and the future of outer space. However, the development of outer space technologies and increasing space applications have brought to the fore the limitations of the existing legal regime of outer space security, including, in particular, the absence of an express prohibition of the deployment and use of weapons other than weapons of mass destruction in outer space and a lack of mechanisms for compliance and dispute settlement, thus making it difficult to prevent the weaponization of outer space and an arms race in outer space.

In order to make up for the gap of the existing outer space security mechanism, it is necessary to negotiate a new outer space treaty in the context of the current security situation of outer space, which would clarify the obligations, responsibilities and rights in the form of legal instrument, and provide mechanism for compliance, verification and consultation. Compared with voluntary TCBM which is only politically binding, a treaty is more universal, more binding, and carries higher cost of non-compliance, thus providing institutional security for the long-term stability of outer space. This is in line with the common interests of all states.

In the successive 36 years, the General Assembly adopted by a overwhelming majority the resolution on Preventing Arms Race in Outer Space and called for the negotiation of an outer space arms control treaty in the CD and continued consideration of the issues related to PAROS. This fully reflects the consensus of the international community on the prevention of weaponization of outer space and arms race in outer space and the general aspiration of concluding a treaty on the arms control in outer space in the framework of the CD as soon as possible.

It was in line with the appeal of the international community to strengthen the outer space security regime that China and Russia tabled the draft PPWT Treaty to the CD in 2008, and then submitted the revised draft PPWT in 2014 after taking on board the extensive comments and concerns of all sides. Two core obligations were introduced, "to prohibit the placing of weapons in outer space and to prohibit the use or threat of force against objects in outer space ".

Here, let me briefly elaborate our positions on issues of concern or controversy in the context of PPWT:

First, the nature of the treaty. PPWT is essentially a preventive regime. While "weapons have not been deployed in outer space”, the treaty attempts to be preemptive in “banning the placement of weapons in outer space”, in order to avoid the conventional path of nuclear disarmament where the development of the weapons system was well underway before its disarmament was called for. This helps minimize waste of resources.

Second, the definition. The sponsors of the draft are fully aware that it is very difficult to define “space weapon” as space assets have dual use property. Thus, the treaty introduces a unique approach that bans the behaviors of “placing weapons in outer space and use or threat of force against objects in outer space”, and specifies treaty obligations by defining some key terminology such as “objects in outer space”, “placement”, and “use and threat of force”.

Third, the scope. The treaty does not prohibit the land, sea and air-based ASAT outright. However banning the use or threat of force against objects in outer space discourages the development of such weapons system at exorbitant cost.

Fourth, the verification. The national measures, consultations and TCBMs in the draft are effective means of ensuring compliance. The draft has also preserved the possibility of developing a protocol on verification. The benefits of so doing are to separate the questions of political nature from those of technical nature, thereby setting out the basic obligations in the form of a treaty, and then developing specific verification measures in a flexible manner in tune with the development of technology.

Fifth, the balance of rights and obligations. The treaty provides for the obligation not to place weapons in outer space or use or threat of force against objects in outer space. In the meantime it makes it clear that this should not jeopardize the right of self-defense and the right of collective self-defense under the Charter of the United Nations, thereby striking a reasonable balance between the rights and obligations in the legal instrument.

The above issues are elaborated in detail in working papers submitted to the CD by China and Russia. PPWT not only contains the positions of China and Russia on this issue, but also takes on board the positions of states that support PAROS. We believe that PPWT represents the broadest international consensus and currently constitutes the most mature basis on which to negotiate a treaty on arms control in outer space in the framework of the CD.

Mr. Coordinator,

China believes that no state can dominate outer space and enjoy absolute security. States should establish a sense of community of common destiny where “we are bound together for good or for ill” and enjoy security of outer space together.

The prevention of weaponization of outer space and the arms race in outer space is a fundamental way to avoid further deterioration of the space environment, maintain safe, stable and sustainable development of outer space, ensure that all states benefit from space dividends. We hope that the CD will reach a balanced programme of work as early as possible in order to mandate the negotiation of the treaty on arms control in outer space, improve the legal mechanism of outer space security and contribute to the governance of outer space security.

Thank you.

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