Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1711
        18 October 2000
     Russian Federation Cautions against Military Deployment in Outer Space;
    Reiterates Proposal for Conference to Prevent Militarization
     
     

    NEW YORK, 17 October (UN Headquarters) -- The exploration of space, while opening up new horizons to humankind, also created the threat of a militarized outer space, the representative of the Russian Federation said this afternoon as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. 

    He said that space systems for monitoring, communication and navigation could help strengthen international security.  However, those systems, when deployed for military purposes, could also undermine global strategic stability.  Outer space should remain an area of exclusively peaceful cooperation.  To that end, Russia had proposed, at the Millennium Summit, a United Nations conference to be held next spring on the prevention of the militarization of outer space.
     
    Malaysia's representative said that the development and testing of weapons in outer space and the recent use of space systems for military purposes could trigger an arms race.  Although an existing legal regime was in place, it was still insufficient, especially under present-day conditions.  It was therefore important that an international law be developed quickly and additional principles be considered to ensure that outer space was kept free of any form of military application.

    The representative of Cuba opposed the increased use of nuclear power in outer space, saying it was necessary to prevent an arms race there at all costs.  In particular, Cuba opposed the deployment of an anti-missile defence system in outer space.  A treaty that could prevent such an arms race was stalled owing to opposition by certain countries.  At the moment, there was no adequate legal regime to prevent an arms race in outer space, and new verifiable instruments must be created for that purpose.  

    Regarding applications of space technology, the representative of Indonesia said that his country, given its equatorial location, considered the definition and delimitation of outer space and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit (GSO) priority matters for the Legal Subcommittee.  It had been generally acknowledged that geostationary orbit was a limited natural resource of a specific nature and hence its use should be harnessed justly and rationally in the interest of all countries.

    He stressed the need to further stimulate the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to make available the new and ever-growing inventory of space applications to the developing countries.  It remained indisputable that while discoveries and advances in the field were growing at a rapid pace, the modest levels of assistance and training for developing countries could hardly meet their immediate needs, much less their future expectations.

    Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of India, Israel, Colombia, Japan, United States, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Syria and Chile (on behalf of the MERCOSUR countries and Bolivia).

    The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 19 October, to conclude the general debate and take action on related draft resolutions.

    Committee Work Programme

    The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  

    Statements

    GENNADI GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that the exploration of space opened up new horizons to humankind, but also brought new threats, such as the militarization of outer space.  It was true that space systems of monitoring, communication and navigation had peaceful uses; they could help strengthen international security.  However, those systems, when deployed for military purposes, could also undermine global strategic stability.  

    Outer space, he said, should remain an area of exclusively peaceful cooperation.  For that purpose, Russia had put forward an initiative at the Millennium Summit to hold a conference, under United Nations auspices, on the prevention of outer space militarization, in spring 2001.  The purpose would be to exclude deployment of any kind of weapon in outer space, to prevent an arms race in that zone, and to keep it from becoming a theatre of war.

    Those efforts, he said, would require a clear legal basis.  He advocated a single, codified legal instrument on outer space, which would encompass the existing five legal instruments.  Such an instrument could expedite the settlement of such difficult issues as a clear legal definition of outer space, the monitoring of its pollution, the control of scientific research and commercial activity, the registration of space objects, as well as many other issues, in a way that fostered cooperation while taking into account the rights of sovereign States.  Russia advocated further progress in space cooperation and supported the strengthening of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, provided that its efficiency and representative nature were improved.

    MADAN LAL KHURANA (India) said cooperation was essential for the development of technologies and applications in outer space.  Noting  the Nucleus of Strategies in the Vienna Declaration and the 1999 UNISPACE-III recommendations, he welcomed the multi-year Work Plans of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).  One of those was on the integrated natural disaster management system, and the other on space-based products within the United Nations system.  He also welcomed the Trust Fund for implementing the recommendations, and said it would require additional contributions from other sources. 

    Reviewing the Indian space programme, he said space technology could help leapfrog the development process.  His country had focused on developing and applying space technology for national development, with a strong commitment to peaceful use and international cooperation.  As new avenues for cooperation emerged, the United Nations would spearhead international cooperation.

    MOHAMMAD YUSOF AHMAD (Malaysia) said the development and testing of weapons in outer space and the recent use of space systems for military purposes could trigger an arms race.  Outer space should be preserved for peaceful purposes only and remain as a common heritage for all humankind to share.  Although there was an existing legal regime in place, it was still insufficient, especially under present-day conditions.  It was therefore important that additional principles be considered to ensure that outer space was kept free of any form of military applications.  In that regard, an international law must be developed quickly.  His delegation was also concerned at the attempts by some Member States to create a new single comprehensive convention on United Nations space treaties.  Such a proposal would be both a time-consuming and a complex exercise.  His country believed that the existing legal regimes were adequate to govern the exploration and uses of outer space. 

    It would be practical and sensible for Member States to adhere to and promote the full application of the relevant United Nations treaties governing outer space.  Such an approach would also allow countries to review and formulate their national space laws before ratifying the five treaties.  Further consultations on that matter should be conducted.  Addressing the issue of membership of the Committee, he said his delegation strongly believed that it should not be restrictive, but instead enlarged so as to allow for more participation by interested Member States.  Many countries were now beginning to see the important role that the Committee had played in promoting the peaceful uses of outer space.  Their interest in joining the Committee should therefore be fully supported.  Malaysia also believed that the practice of sharing seats on a rotating basis should be abolished, and that those members be made full members of the Committee.

    DAVID ZOHAR (Israel) said the Israeli Space Agency was established in 1983 as a governmental organization acting within the framework of the Ministry of Science and Technology.  The agency was charged with the task of furthering space-related activities in the interests of his country's peaceful use of outer space.  At the moment, there were three Israeli-made satellites orbiting the earth.  In an effort to build upon past successes, his country's space industry, working in conjunction with a United States company, planned to develop, manufacture and launch several commercial satellites named EROS (Earth Remote Observation System), the first of which might be launched by the end of the year 2000.

    He said Israel continued to emphasize exploitation of its technological advantages in certain niches -- notably small sophisticated satellites, space propulsion, and satellite-based technologies such as remote-sensing -- to build an infrastructure capable of achieving optimal economic outcomes.  The Agency was also lending its efforts to a Dutch scientific satellite project, SLOSHSAT, designed to investigate sloshing problems in the fuel tanks of satellites.  That satellite would be launched from a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the Unite States space shuttle in late 2001, and would be equipped with an Israeli thruster system.

    ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said progress in outer space should become an effective instrument for development in all countries.  The Agreement adopted by COPUOS on the rational and equitable use of the Geostationary Orbit recognized that the special needs of developing countries must be taken into account in allocation of and access to frequency bands and satellite orbits.  Colombia also hoped that the application of the principle of equitable access would be reflected in the activities of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

    He said one aspect that should not be ignored was the adaptation of the existing legal regulations to advances in space activities.  "We must insist on a global legal framework that offers security for progress in space by integrating the existing legal instruments and at the same time, facilitating innovation in space law", he said.  He therefore encouraged delegations to examine the convenience of adopting a general convention on space law, such as the one adopted for the Sea in 1982.

    RAFAEL DAUSA (Cuba) complimented the Committee's work over the past year.  Many steps had been taken to preserve outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes.  Much had been done to promote international cooperation in the use of space technology to encourage the sustainable development of all countries, particularly developing countries.  Much more needed to be done, however.  It was imperative to reduce the enormous disparities in the technology available to countries, especially those which could mitigate natural disasters, monitor climate changes and otherwise assist their neighbours. 

    However, he opposed the increased use of nuclear power in outer space, and said it was necessary at all costs to prevent an arms race there.  In particular, he opposed the space deployment of an anti-missile defence system, which could unleash a frenzied space arms race.  A treaty that could prevent such an arms race was stalled because of the opposition of certain countries.  At the moment, there was no adequate legal regime to prevent an arms race in outer space, and new verifiable instruments needed to be created for that purpose.  

    In addition, he said, it was important to work on the issues of space waste and collisions of space objects, especially where nuclear devices were involved, and to hold States responsible for occurrences.  UNISPACE III was a step forward.  Its action plan and the Vienna Declaration should guide future cooperation in preserving space for peaceful uses, making sure that the benefits of those uses were shared by all humankind.

    HAZAIRIN POHAN (Indonesia) said the international community had expressed its concern about the need to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, taking into account the needs of the developing countries.  Indonesia's basic position had been the need for outer space to be utilized entirely for peaceful purposes and aimed towards improving the welfare of mankind.  Such activities should be conducted in a way that would not negatively impact national interests or the sustainability of the earth.

    Reiterating the untold benefits of remote sensing for promoting sustainable and environment-oriented development, he said it was essential that the developed countries provide access to such data in a non-discriminatory way, at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.  For developing countries in particular, the use of remote sensing technology would greatly contribute to their capability-building needs.  Regarding the definition and delimitation of outer space and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit (GSO), he said that Indonesia, as an equatorial country, considered that question as a priority for the Legal Subcommittee.  It had been generally acknowledged that the geostationary orbit was a limited natural resource of a specific nature and hence, its use should be harnessed justly and rationally in the interest of all countries.

    With respect to spin-off benefits of space technology, he said rapid technical innovations had the potential to yield vast benefits for humankind in the fields of health, nuclear and environmental clean-up and satellite communications, as well as maritime and air transport.  There was a need to further stimulate the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to make available the new and ever-growing inventory of space applications to the developing countries.  It remained indisputable that while discoveries and advances in the field were growing at a rapid pace, the modest levels of assistance and training for developing countries could hardly meet their immediate needs, much less their future expectations.

    SHINGO MIYAMOTO (Japan) noted the proposals presented at the recent session of the Legal Subcommittee, including those addressing the issue of space debris and the commercial aspects of outer space.  However, Japan believed that, in order to establish new agenda items on those and other issues, it was important first to gather all the technical data from Member States which had accumulated research and technical experience in the field.  The goal was not to regulate space activities unnecessarily, but rather to ensure they were conducted in a free and fair manner and for peaceful purposes, in accordance with the existing international legal framework.

    Recognizing that outer space was the property of all humankind, he said, Japan was firmly committed to the idea that the achievements derived from space activities should benefit everyone.  Accordingly, Japan was making efforts to share the spin-off benefits of its space technology in such fields as telecommunication, transportation and meteorology.  It had also used, in cooperation with other countries, its remote sensing technology to tackle such global challenges as disaster monitoring, climate change and natural resource exploration.  Specifically, data obtained by Japanese earth observation satellites had enabled scientists around the world to better understand the El Niño phenomenon, to monitor the hole in the ozone layer and to assess the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

    KENNETH HODGKINS (United States) said his country had joined Austria, Canada, Chile, Nigeria and Turkey in proposing the addition of a new standing item to the agenda of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space entitled "Space and Society".  It would involve the exchange of information in the latest national and international efforts to increase awareness of the benefits of space activities and to hear from leading experts in government, academia, the news media, and the private sector on what they were doing in that area.  Although agreement had not yet been reached on the proposal, the United States was confident that consensus would be reached in the near future.

    Welcoming the restructuring of the agendas of the Committee and its subcommittees, he noted that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had addressed international cooperation in human space flight at its last session, providing the opportunity for an exchange of views on the development and utilization of the International Space Station.  In 2001, it would consider a United States proposal on public and private initiatives to promote space education.  The Legal Subcommittee was now entering the second year of its work to review the concept of the launching State.  It would also take up consideration of the draft convention of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) on international financial interests in mobile equipment and the related draft protocol on matters specific to space property.

    Space exploration was entering a new era involving unprecedented cooperation on the International Space Station, cutting-edge technologies and innovative private and government arrangements.  The Committee's new methods of work and agenda items would permit each Committee member to report on topics of long-standing interest and at the same time allow timely new topics to be introduced as agreed among Member States.  The vitality of the Committee and its subcommittees was made clear by the fact that there had been more ideas of interest for new agenda items than could be accommodated next year.  Those were significant steps forward in ensuring that the Committee's work kept pace with rapid developments in space exploration.

    PETER TOMKA (Slovakia) said his country shared the views of the European Union, expressed by the representative of France, on the issue of the peaceful uses of outer space.  He wanted to add that Slovakia had participated in a multinational space mission, which gave insights into physics and life sciences.  Slovakia was ready to participate in further international cooperation, and to share any experiences gained. 

    Slovakia, he said, would like to play an active role in the expansion of international cooperation in the uses of outer space.  It therefore wished to become a member of the Committee.  He described Slovakia's nearly 30-year history of space research; the country was prepared to contribute to fulfilment of the Committee's noble goals.

    BANDAR BIN SAAD BIN KHALED AL-SAUD (Saudi Arabia) said that UNISPACE III rightly stressed the peaceful uses of outer space for the social, political and economic development of all countries, and the need for regional, bilateral and international cooperation in those efforts.  He supported the furtherance of space technology, along with education, training and awareness programmes within the United Nations that would extend the benefits of space technology to more people.  He also noted the important role of space in ensuring peace and international security, and said countries should benefit from space technologies whether or not they were active in the field.  

    He said that Saudi Arabia placed high importance on its space endeavours, and was active in many cooperative efforts for the peaceful uses of space technology.  It was very active as a base of satellite communications covering its region and Africa, and it had participated in launching two satellites produced locally for satellite communications and other peaceful space technology, along with Russian partners.  Because of those activities, the Kingdom had made it known, at various points, that it wished to join the Committee on the peaceful uses of outer space.

    MANUEL PICASSO (Peru) said that measures contained in the programme for the applications of space technology would only be possible through effective international cooperation, both in access to technology and in the drafting of specific projects for space activities.  That cooperation must also be focused on sharing processed information that would have a practical and direct effect on the sustainable development of States.

    He said that the items referring to the protection of the environment and the management of natural disasters were particularly relevant for his country.  It was fundamental for Peru to develop an appropriate quantification of the causes of disasters, as well as an early warning capacity that would permit the prevention of enormous human and material losses.  Countries like Peru had been severely affected throughout their history by floods, drought and earthquakes, among other natural disasters that had caused marked economic losses.

    The important role that space science and technology would play in the development of States was becoming more visible, he noted.  The essential challenge was to allow those benefits to be placed at the disposal of all countries, particularly those suffering from extreme poverty.  In the Millennium Declaration, the Heads of State had resolved to create an environment that would promote development by eliminating poverty.  The applications of space technology were one of the key means to achieve that goal.

    He said that was why Peru did not understand that although the subjects before the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space constituted a permanent concern of the international community as a whole, the item concerning the expansion of the Committee's composition continued to be postponed.  Peru, one of the Committee's rotating members, believed that all States committed to the peaceful and sustainable use of outer space should participate as full members.

    MILAD ATIEH (Syria) said that burgeoning new space technologies could serve for the betterment of all humanity, especially in developing countries.  Space technologies could assist them with development, with preservation of the environment and with economic and health problems. 

    He viewed with grave concern, however, efforts to militarize outer space.  Those efforts ran counter to current aspirations for international peace and security.  The preservation of outer space for peaceful purposes required a sincere effort to create a developing legal framework to guarantee peaceful uses and ban military exploitation of outer space.  United Nations disarmament bodies should cooperate in those efforts, since Member States respected their competency on the subject.

    The prevention of collisions between pieces of space debris was another important matter, he said, especially where components contained nuclear material.  States should be held responsible for ensuring the safety of their devices in outer space.  He reiterated Syria's satisfaction with the results of UNISPACE III, particularly its recommendations of ways and means whereby developing nations could benefit from space technology.  He supported the expansion of the Committee membership as well, and said that Syria's participation in multinational space activities demonstrated its wish to participate in international cooperation for the peaceful uses of space.

    JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) countries and Bolivia, emphasized that the protection of the earth's environment and management of its resources could not be achieved without access to all available information obtained by satellites.  Access to that information was vital for all States, particularly the developing ones.

    There was a need to mitigate natural disasters that were a daily reality for some countries, he said.  Putting space technology within the reach of all could help to create a climate of prevention.  Many countries had an enormous amount of data but no means of processing it.  Efforts should continue for the use of space technology to solve people's day-to-day problems.  The vicious circle of poverty and lack of access to modern technology should, for ethical and moral reasons, be reversed.  A legal framework or clear political understanding was needed to create a framework for human security.

    He said that yesterday in the working group, the Chilean delegation had proposed a draft resolution, to which it now wished to propose an addition.  The addition would state that the General Assembly would recognize the usefulness of, and significance to, the Latin American countries of the Space Conferences of the Americas, and urge the convening of a fourth such conference.  It would also urge that other continents undertake periodic regional conferences to formulate technical positions and common policies to help achieve a convergence of positions among the various members of the Fourth Committee.

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