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Russia, China propose draft treaty on use of weapons in space

[JURIST] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday submitted to the 2008 Conference on Disarmament (CD) [official website] a draft treaty, jointly proposed with China, that would regulate the use of weapons in space. According to a press release [text] from the conference:

Sergey Lavrov, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, today officially submitted a joint Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects, to the Conference on Disarmament. He also spoke about the uncertain future of Russian-American efforts in the area of limitation and reduction of strategic offensive arms, setting out Russian initiatives and concerns in that area. ...

Mr. Lavrov, recalling that the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) would expire in December 2009, said that, as far back as three years ago, Russia had offered the idea of developing and concluding a new full-fledged agreement on further and verifiable reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. However, it had so far been impossible to arrive at acceptable solutions. Specifically, the Russian Federation could not but feel concerned over the situation in which – with the looming prospect of expiration of the [Strategic Arms Limitation] Treaty [SALT 1] – the United States was increasingly making efforts to deploy its global Anti-Ballistic Missile system. And if one also placed on the balance pan the "global lightening strike" concept, providing the capability of striking targets at any point on the Globe with nuclear and conventional strategic means within one hour after a decision was taken, the risks for strategic stability and predictability became more than obvious.

On the issue of the draft outer space treaty, Mr. Lavrov noted that modern international space law did not prohibit deployment in space of weapons other than weapons of mass destruction. However, such weapons would be fit for real use, generate suspicions and tensions among States and frustrate the climate of mutual trust and cooperation in space exploration, rather than being a means of containment. Also, weapons deployment in space by one State would inevitably result in a new spiral in the arms race. The draft Treaty introduced today served to eliminate existing lacunae in international space law, to create conditions for further exploration and use of space, to preserve costly space property, and to strengthen general security and arms control. It was time to start serious practical work in this field; otherwise, they would miss the opportunity to do so.
In January, China sparked an international outcry [BBC report] by successfully launching a missile that destroyed a weather satellite. Many countries expressed concern that the destruction of the satellite would create large amounts of debris in space, interfering with or threatening other satellites. Other countries said that China's actions could induce future arms movements into space [CNS backgrounder]. In October, US President George W. Bush authorized the first changes to the US space policy in nearly 10 years by asserting authority to deny access to space [JURIST report] to any adversary hostile to US interests. In 2002, China and Russia jointly proposed an explicit ban on weapons in space [PDF text; China Daily report], but the US opposed the measure, arguing that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty [text] already provided enough protection against the practice. AFP has more.

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