Prevention of Outer Space Weaponization under International Law: A Chinese Lawyer's Perspective

Author:Yan Ling
Position:Professor of International Law at China University of Political Science and Law( 'CUPL'). LL.M.(CUPL), Diploma(ISS)
Pages:271-289
SUMMARY

Since the existing international legal regime governing space weapons is inadequate, the international community is worried about the weaponization of outer space. This paper introduces the efforts and contributions in this regard made by the UN General Assembly, the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. It then ... (see full summary)

 
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Prevention of Outer Space
Weaponization under
International Law:
A Chinese Lawyer s
Perspective
Yan Ling
Since the existing international legal regime governing space weapons is inadequate,
the international community is worried about the weaponization of outer space. This
paper introduces the efforts and contributions in this regard made by the UN
General Assembly, the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Committee for Peaceful
Uses of Outer Space and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. It then
analyzes several different approaches to solving the problem of weaponization of
outer space, i.e. amendment of Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty, conclusion of a
multilateral treaty on comprehensive prohibition of space weapons, and transparency
and confidence-building measures in outer space activities. It concludes that a
multilateral treaty on the prevention of weaponization of outer space with
appropriate verification mechanism will be a final solution. At the present stage, a
combination of various CBMs can also serve the purpose to prevent space weapons.
Keywords
Outer Space Treaty, Space Weaponization, Prevention of Space
Weapons, Multilateral Treaty, Transparency and Confidence-Building
Measures, Code of Conduct
KFBJM3)3122*  271
* Professor of International Law at China University of Political Science and Law(CUPL). LL.M.(CUPL),
Diploma(ISS).The author may be contacted at: lingy450@yahoo.com.cn /Address: Faculty of International Law, China
University of Political Science and Law, No. 25 Xi Tu Cheng Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100088China
I. Introduction
The international community has long been concerned about the weaponization of
outer space. Fears that outer space would become another arena for warfare have been
voiced in the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA),
1
the UN Committee for
Peaceful Uses of Outer Space,
2
and the Conference on Disarmament.
3
Debates on
weaponization of outer space were frequently heated in recent years: when the United
Statesspace policy was announced in 2006 denying the use of space to adversaries if
necessary;
4
when the Chinas land-based missiles destroyed a home-made obsolete
meteorological satellite at 800 km above the earth on January 11, 2007;
5
when a US spy
satellite was shot down by a US MS-3 missile on February 20, 2008;
6
and when the flight
test of the US air force X-37 reusable space plane took place in April 2010.
7
What makes the international community so worried is that the existing
international legal regime governing space weapons is inadequate.
8
Since the
withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems Treaty in 2002,
and the termination of US-Soviet Treaty on Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of
1979, there are only three international treaties governing space weapons, namely, the
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under
Water (Partial Test Ban Treaty) of 1963, the Treaty on Principles Governing the
Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space including the Moon and
Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) of 1967, and the Agreement Governing
the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Moon Agreement) of
1979. However, the Partial Test Ban Treaty only prohibits the testing of nuclear weapons
1
See Secretary-General says benefits of space exploration should not be limited to privileged few,
P
RESS
R
ELEASE
, U.N.
Doc. SG/SM/7767 (Apr. 12, 2001), available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2001/sgsm7767.doc.htm (last
visited on Sept. 20, 2011).
2Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, U.N. GAOR, 58th Sess., Supp. No. 20, U.N. Doc.
A/58/20 8 (June 11-20, 2003), available at http://www.un.org/documents/ga/docs/56/a5620.pdf (last visited on Sept.
20, 2011).
3Paul Meyer,
The Conference on Disarmament and the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, available at
http://www.unidir.org/bdd/fiche-ouvrage.php?ref_ouvrage=92-9045-011-B-en (last visited on Sept. 20, 2011).
4
See
National Space Policy of the United States of America (Aug. 31, 2006),
available at
http://www.nss.org/resources/
library/spacepolicy (last visited on Sept. 20, 2011).
5Aura Ang,
China confirms Anti-satellite Missile Test
, CBS N
EWS
(Jan. 23, 2007),
available at
http://www.cbsnews.com/
stories/2007/01/23/world/main2387524.shtml (last visited on Sept. 20. 2011).
6David Morgan,
US: Missile Smashed Spay Satellite
, CBS N
EWS
(Feb. 11, 2009),
available at
http://www.cbsnews.com/
stories/2008/02/20/tech/main3851209.shtml (last visited on Sept. 20, 2011).
7Paul Rincon,
X-37B US Military Spaceplane Returns to Earth
, BBC N
EWS
(Dec. 3, 2010),
available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11911335 (last visited on Sept. 20, 2011).
8Conference on Disarmament, CD/1818 (Mar. 14, 2007), 18-19.
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