Remarks by H.E. Amb. LI Song on Topic 2 (Earth-to-Space Threats) at the Second Substantive Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats
2022-09-14 18:09

Mr. Chair,

China believes that the earth-to-space threats constitute only one aspect of the various threats to the outer space environment and systems, and should not be viewed in isolation. The root causes of the threats to the outer space environment and systems come from the decisions and actions taken by one country on the ground, which are manifested in the following aspects:

First, the adoption on the ground of irresponsible and offensive space policies. As China said in the statement yesterday, this OEWG can not turn a blind eye to or remain idle to the policies, doctrines and strategies of an individual space power trying to dominate outer space or the policies threats arising from the certain superpower trying to seek space hegemony. If one country defines outer space as a war-fighting domain and a priority domain of national military power, and continues to consolidate its space force structure, conduct military exercises and advocate confrontation in outer space, the risk of placement of weapons in outer space by this country, or the threat or use of forces against outer space objects will obviously increase and consequently endanger the world.

Second, the direct threats to the security and safety of outer space objects through activities on the ground. For example, conducting ASAT tests from land, sea and air-based platforms, interfering launch activities of other countries and disrupting the normal trajectory of outer space objects through electromagnetic interference and cyber attack on the ground, etc.

Third, the development of anti-satellite capabilities under the banner of missile defense. The panelist from Japan mentioned on Monday that missile defense systems can be used for direct-ascent ASAT purpose. This is an important point. Anti-satellite and missile defense technologies are interrelated. Missile defense weapons may appear to be for defensive purposes, but they could also be offensive means, posing serious threats to outer space objects and creating long-term debris in outer space. During the interactive panel discussion yesterday morning, some experts made a special reference to the SM-3 missile test in 2008, which resulted in the destruction of a satellite and the creation of a large amount of debris. The country concerned also jointly developed with its allies in Europe and Asia-Pacific region missile defense weapons and transferred them to the referred counties, which deliberately created the proliferation of the ASAT capabilities. When we discuss the earth-to-space threats, we should not overlook or exclude the missile defense capability which can be used for ASAT purposes.

Mr. Chair,

In the statement on Monday, I stated China’s general views on the US commitment not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. We also noted that the US has indicated that they would submit a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly on this issue, calling on other countries to make similar commitments. I would like to reiterate that China welcomes all arms control initiatives that are genuinely conducive to achieving the objective of the prevention of an arms race in outer space. However, we are firmly against any practice of trying to expand one's own military superiority under the pretext of arms control.

From a historic perspective, the US is the country that has conducted the earliest, the most numerous and the most diverse anti-satellite testing. As early as 1959, only two years after the launch of the first artificial satellite of humankind, the US had already embarked on its direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons testing. The tests conducted by the US in history have not only resulted in serious damage to the outer space environment and systems, but have also directly intensified confrontation and the arms race between the major powers.

After more than half a century of development, the US has possessed full-fledged ASAT measures, capable to build operational ASAT credibility through its missile defense equipments, and does not need to conduct any destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. It is rather ironic that the US, which has been the most enthusiastic about developing offensive and defensive capabilities in space, has now put forward a draft resolution like this. If the US is genuinely committed to security and safety in outer space, it should have submitted such a resolution 60 years ago. In terms of the commitment made by the US itself, it only refers to the narrow aspect of testing and does not involve the development, production, deployment and use of ASAT, nor does it impose restrictions and constraints on the US space force build-up, which has no added value to promote international arms control endeavor on outer space. Yesterday, a high-ranking officer of the US Space Force testified in the Senate Armed Service Committee, “we don’t give up too much because we have other ways to test our capabilities.” In this view, we have to point out that the US initiative is partial and will not contain any restrictions on itself. From the perspective of arms control, the initiative has very limited practical value.

Mr. Chair,

The fundamental way to address the earth-to-space threats is to discard the offensive space policies and military doctrines. The country possessing the most powerful outer space capability has the primary responsibility towards negotiating a legal instrument on arms control in outer space, and should play an active and leading role in this regard. Since China and Russia submitted the draft “Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects” (PPWT) to the Conference on Disarmament, some countries have repeatedly criticized the draft without submitting any draft treaty on arms control in outer space or any other such substantial proposals. Meanwhile, some argue that the PPWT is designed to control weapons and does not regulate the behaviour of states, which is a deliberate misinterpretation of the PPWT. In fact, the no placement of weapons in outer space and commitment not to use or threat of use of force against outer space objects advocated by the PPWT are all about “behaviours”. It is capable of covering all the issues discussed by OEWG, including the effective solution to the ASAT issue. We call on the countries concerned to join the negotiation process with a responsible attitude as soon as possible, so that all earth-to-space threats can be addressed in a legally binding way and peace and tranquillity in outer space can be preserved.

In order to address the earth-to-space threats once and for all, China suggests that the OEWG should include the three points as follows in the subsequent discussions

Firstly, space war could never be won and must never be fought. No country should seek hegemony in outer space, or adopt a policy or strategy with the aim to dominate outer space. No country should define outer space as a war-fighting domain.

Secondly, all countries should make a commitment not to use or threat of use of force against outer space objects in a legally-binding manner.

Thirdly, all countries should be committed to negotiating an international legally-binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space and the prevention of weaponization in outer space at an early date.

Mr. Chair,

Yesterday, we listened carefully to the statements made by Sri Lanka, Cuba, India, Indonesia and other countries. They all stressed the importance of international law, and considered that the discussion in the OEWG should be based on clear legal concepts and meaning. China shares this view. Delegations did not reach an agreement on legal issues at the first substantive session, and there were no sufficient discussions on the aspect of international law. If the OEWG starts to discuss norms on behaviors at this time, this approach itself would be irresponsible and be more likely to lead to an arbitrary interpretation of international law. Therefore, the OEWG should continue to look into the relevant legal issues, identify the existing gaps in the current international legal system, as well as consider the applicability of the concept of “due regard” in various scenarios, etc.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.