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Document of the People's Republic of China pursuant to UNGA Resolution 75/36 (2020)

2021/04/30

Introduction

Outer space is closely related to the security and welfare of humankind, and has striking features of a community with a shared future for humankind. The space utilization and exploration as well as space technology advancement and its extensive application have brought not only benefits to the development and prosperity of human society but also rising challenges and risks. In particular, the rising risks of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space have become the greatest threat to outer space security.

Preventing an arms race in outer space is the precondition for safeguarding outer space security and ensuring peaceful uses of outer space, as well as one of the most prominent and pressing issues for the international community. Since the existing international legal instruments are insufficient to deal with the new challenges, the conclusion of an arms control treaty on outer space becomes even more important and urgent, and should be viewed as the priority and fundamental goal in related international agenda. The discussions on responsible behaviors in outer space could only serve the fundamental goal of preventing an arms race in outer space. No attempts should be made to dwell on less important issues, mixing up different agendas, or even use such discussions as a tool for certain countries to shirk its own responsibility and pin the blame on others. All relevant discussions on responsible behaviors in outer space should adhere to multilateralism and avoid being politicized, discriminatory and exclusive.

Outer space security concerns the common security of all humankind. Maintaining outer space security should be the responsibility of all countries and those with the most advanced space capabilities bear a special responsibility in preventing an arms race in outer space and ensuring peaceful uses of outer space. China believes that outer space should be a new frontier for win-win cooperation rather than a new battlefield of great powers competition. In this vein, to safeguard and ensure outer space security, all countries should make efforts in the following five aspects:

Firstly, all countries should be committed to building a community with a shared future for humankind and maintaining the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable global security. This is the conceptual basis to maintain outer space security.

Secondly, preventing weaponization of outer space and an arms race in outer space in a practical and effective manner is fundamental for maintaining outer space security. It is imperative to conclude an international legally-binding instrument at an early date. The UN should re-establish the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) or establish an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), under which responsible behaviors in outer space could be included as one of the agenda items.

Thirdly, transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) could play a certain positive role and serve as an useful supplement to legally-binding arms control measures on outer space. However, the discussions on TCBMs should not replace the negotiation of an international legally-binding instrument.

Fourthly, a proper balance should be struck between outer space security and the peaceful and sustainable uses of outer space. The equal rights of all countries on the peaceful uses of outer space should be respected and ensured and related international exchange and cooperation enhanced.

Fifthly, the UN should play its role as the central platform for outer space governance in order to ensure extensive participation, fairness and inclusiveness in related international rule-making process. Different UN forums should fully respect each other’s mandate while keeping close coordination and cooperation.

I. Overview on outer space security situation

In general, space security and space safety are two different dimensions of outer space issue. Space security refers to the risks of weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, including actions such as declaring outer space as a new war-fighting domain, developing military capabilities in outer space, establishing independent Space Force and Space Command, deploying weapons and equipment expeditiously, and conducting military exercises in outer space. Such actions will increase the risks of strategic miscalculation, accidental clashes, or even conflicts, and therefore are the fundamental threats to outer space. Space safety, which refers to the risks occurring in the process of peaceful uses of outer space, including, inter alia, orbit congestion, collision, space debris, is the common challenge all countries face when conducting space activities. Space security and space safety are issues of a different nature, and the approaches to deal with them should vary accordingly. We should avoid mixing them up and confusing the primary with the secondary. If we could not prevent an arms race in outer space and safeguard peace in outer space, neither security nor safety could be possible.

Above all, the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space becomes more prominent and pressing. The root cause is that certain country sticks to the Cold-War mentality, pursues unilateral military and strategic superiority in space, and increase its attempts, plans and actions to seek dominance in space. It is evident in three aspects:

Firstly, outer space has been increasingly regarded as a new battlefield. The US publicly declares outer space as a new war-fighting domain, establishes an independent Space Force and Space Command, and accelerates the building up of combat system in outer space, in a bid to get ready for a space war. The UK just announced to establish its new Space Command and a military force with space combat capability, and plans to invest tremendously on R&D of space weapons including directed energy weapons. The NATO for the first time defines space as an operational domain with a view to enhancing synergistic operational capabilities in space. Such actions have exacerbated the trend of an arms race in outer space, increased the risk of turning outer space into a war-fighting domain like the land, sea and air, and dramatically increased the uncertainty of outer space security.

Secondly, the vulnerability of outer space security is rising. The development of anti-satellite weapons, missile defense systems and long-rang precision attack weapons has posed challenges to traditional strategic balance and stability. The US was the first country to conduct the anti-satellite weapon tests, and with the most tests conducted, it created the largest amount of space debris. In its 2019 Missile Defense Review, the US stressed the importance of space in missile defense and its plans to build a network of space-based infrared sensors, develop new type of space sensors and deploy space-based missile interceptors in space. In recent years, the US has been upgrading its space tests, including repeatedly testing the X-37B spacecraft, extending the lifespan of a communication satellite (Intelsat 901) in the graveyard orbit after docking with MEV-l and deploying upgraded Counter Communication System (CCS) systems which could be used to jam signals and disrupt satellite communications. These technologies can be diverted to offensive military use, thus posing a serious threat to the security of outer space assets of other countries.

Thirdly, the risk of confrontation and conflict in outer space is rising. In terms of strategy, expressions like competition, adversaries and threat are frequently used in the US National Space Strategy and the UK The Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy. In terms of actions, the US conducted rendezvous proximity operations or fly-overs that endanger other countries’ satellites on orbit, tested offensive and defensive space capabilities, and interfered with normal space operations by other countries. Such actions have posed severe threats to the space assets of other countries, aggravated tension in space, and increased the risk of military miscalculation and conflict.

II. Comments on Responsible Behaviors in outer space

Outer space security issue is very complex. The binary distinction between responsible and irresponsible behaviors in outer space is over-simplified and subjective, and can easily be used as a political tool. In spite of this, China is willing to share our understanding on responsible behaviors in outer space, with a view to promoting mutual understanding, seeking to broaden consensus and contributing to the international efforts for preventing an arm race in outer space.

1. Responsible behaviors in outer space should observe the following principles:

Firstly, safeguarding common and universal security. All countries should, by building a community with a shared future for humankind and bearing in mind the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable global security, shoulder the responsibility of maintaining outer space security and cope with threats to outer space security through cooperation, with a view to maintaining common and universal security. The major powers should abandon the mindset of unilateralism, the pursuit for absolute superiority, absolute freedom and unilateral security in outer space, the strategy and policy pursuing dominance in space, and the approaches that stressing the security of one single country or a small groups of country by undermining the security interests of other countries or even common security of the international community. All countries should not cross the red line of conflict or war in outer space. All parties should enhance understanding and mutual trust through dialogues and avoid confrontation and miscalculation. The countries with the greatest space capabilities bear a special responsibility in this aspect.

Secondly, respecting and abiding by basic principles set out in existing international law. All countries should ensure that its space behaviors are in line with international law and principles governing international relations, which are the basic norms of responsible behaviors. All countries should follow the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, abiding by the Outer Space Treaty (1967), the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects and Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into outer space, and fulfill the obligations of the international law in good faith.

Thirdly, persisting in preventing an arms race in outer space. Preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space is fundamental to safeguarding outer space security. The highest priority is to negotiate and conclude an international legally-binding instrument on arms control in outer space at an early date. The UN should establish a second GGE or an OEWG on PAROS, under which responsible behaviors in outer space could be taken as one of the agenda items. While the Conference on Disarmament is yet to reach an agreement on its Programme of Work and starts negotiation, a technical expert group could be established to discuss technical issues such as definition, scope and verification of a future legal instrument on outer space arms control. The TCBMs could play a positive role in this regard, but they should not replace the negotiation of a treaty on outer space arms control.

Fourthly, a balance should be struck between outer space security and peaceful use of outer space. The equal rights of all countries on the peaceful uses of outer space, particularly the interest of developing countries and emerging space-faring countries, should be respected and ensured and related international exchange and cooperation enhanced. We should promote international exchanges, technical assistance and cooperation, promote universal and shared benefit of outer space technological development, and promote peaceful use of outer space as a strong drive of economic and social development of all. Ideological bias, double standards and unilateral sanctions should be abandoned, political divides and technical barriers should be removed, and abuses of such pretext as security threats to hamper the peaceful use of outer space should be avoided.

Fifthly, upholding multilateralism and seeking comprehensive and coordinated solutions. We should support the UN playing a central role as the main platform for outer space governance, and ensure the extensive participation, justice and inclusiveness in related international rule-making, build widest possible international consensus, and avoid imposing the wills of some countries on others. Relevant UN agencies have own mandates and focuses, therefore in the coordinating and cooperating needed, efforts should be made to avoid excessive overlapping and confusion. The CD should play a primary role in preventing an arms race in outer space. Other multilateral platforms such as the First Committee, the Fourth Committee of the UNGA, UNCOPUOS and Disarmament Commission could facilitate relevant discussions within their mandates.

2. In terms of specific actions, China calls upon all countries to take the following actions:

First, supporting the negotiation of a treaty on space arms control. All countries should support the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force in anywhere against outer space objects through legally-binding measures. Whether a country has the political will to participate in such a negotiation is the touchstone for its sincerity of behaving responsibly.

Second, suspension of confrontation and interference actions in outer space. For example, suspension of unrestrained research and development and deployment of missile defense system, particularly the deployment of missile interceptors in space; suspension of rendezvous proximity operations and space-based tests of technologies that endangers other countries’ spacecrafts.

Third, taking transparency and confidence building measures on a voluntary basis. All countries should enhance mutual trust and avoid miscalculation through appropriate and feasible transparency and confidence building measures, which could be supplementary to the negotiation and conclusion of an international legally-binding instrument of space arms control. These measures include but not limited to: no first placement of weapons in outer space; space security dialogue and exchanges on national space strategies, policies and intentions; cooperation in space debris mitigation, space objects collision avoidance, space launching notification and space facility visits, seeking to reach bilateral or multilateral arrangements, etc.

Fourth, ensuring long-term sustainability of peaceful use of outer space. Necessary technical measures should be taken to mitigate space debris in accordance to relevant international rules. Extensive discussions on long-term sustainability of the peaceful use of outer space and space debris mitigation within the UNCOPUOS framework should be continued with wide participation of all relevant parties. Meanwhile, legitimate rights and and special needs of the developing countries should be fully taken into consideration.

III. China’s policies and practices in maintaining outer space security

China has consistently advocated the peaceful uses of outer space and firmly opposed to the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space as well as the extension of armed conflict to outer space. China maintains that the exploration and use of outer space should serve the purpose of promoting the economic, scientific and cultural development of all countries and benefit all humankind. To this end, China has been making unswerving efforts in the following aspects:

First, China has actively promoted the negotiation of an arms control treaty on outer space. China and Russia jointly submitted to the CD a Draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against outer space Objects in 2008 and its updated text in 2014, which provides a good basis for future negotiation. Since 2007, China has co-sponsored the resolutions entitled Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in outer space, and No First Placement of Weapons in outer space at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. As proposed by China, Russia and some other countries, the UN established the GGE on PAROS in 2017, and held two sessions in August 2018 and March 2019 respectively and open consultations in January 2019. Although the GGE failed to adopt a substantive report due to the blockade by the US, all parties had an unprecedentedly in-depth and substantive discussion on elements of an international legally-binding instrument on arms control in outer space, which laid the groundwork for the next step forward in the process of arms control in outer space.

Second, China has attached great importance to transparency and confidence building measures in outer space. As one of the sponsors of the resolution entitled Transparency and Confidence Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, China has actively taken part in the GGE on TCBMs in outer space, made a number of constructive suggestions and supported all parties in actively studying and implementing the report by the GGE in 2013 on a voluntary basis. China released the white paper entitled China’s Space Activities four times in 2000, 2006, 2011, 2016 respectively and released the white paper entitled China’s National Defense in the New Era in 2019, which fully demonstrate China’s space policy and space activities plan. China has registered relevant information in strict accordance with the requirements of The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space. The Chinese Government issued the Interim Measures on the Administration of Permits for Civil Space Launch Projects to strengthen the permit approval of launch projects and regulation of commercial space activities. China has published significant space launch activities through media or maintained communication and coordination with relevant countries and international organizations.

Third, China has actively engaged in international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. China has actively participated in the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its working group and has played a constructive role in concluding the Preamble and 21 Guidelines of the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities. China has also actively participated in the cooperation under multilateral fora including the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, IWAN, SMPAG and others, and conducted regular exchange with relevant countries on space debris, satellite collision warning, etc. To integrate with international standards, the Chinese Government has issued Space Debris Mitigation Requirements and other standards. China has offered to employ passivation measures commonly on the upper stage of carrier rockets, which contributed to zero growth of the total number of space debris created by China. China has also proactively carried out off-track operation for end-of-life spacecrafts disposal or transferring to the graveyard orbit, so as to preserve orbital resources to the greatest extent possible.

Fourth, China has actively conducted international space exchanges and cooperation. China has signed more than 130 space cooperation agreements and MoUs with nearly 40 countries and international organizations, provided satellite service to more than 10 countries and promoted the international application of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. China has organized and received visits of foreign officials and aerospace experts to its launch centers. China has actively conducted international cooperation within the framework of the UN, Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization and BRICS. China has published space application cooperation programs on its Space Station for all countries, in cooperation with the UN. In the first round, 9 projects from 17 countries has been selected to participate in the scientific experiments of China’s space station, and a second round of selection will be published in due time.

Conclusion

Space war can not be won and must never be fought. The history of nuclear arms race should never be repeated in space. All nations share broad common interests in outer space. We should preserve space as a new frontier for cooperation rather than a battlefield for competition and confrontation. China stands ready to make joint efforts with other parties in outer space with a view to building a community with a shared future for humankind, and actively seek practical and effective solutions against space security threats so as to safeguard the common security of the humankind, in a bid to contribute to the peace, security and sustainability of outer space.

China kindly requests Mr. Secretary-General to take into account of China's views in his substantive report pursuant to paragraphs 5 and 6 of the UNGA resolution 75/36 of 7 December 2020 as well as to include this document as an annex to his report.

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