Statement by H.E. Mr. Li Changhe, Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs of China,

on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space

in the Plenary Meeting of the Conference on Disarmament

(13 August, 1998, Geneva)

Mr. President,

The Conference on Disarmament decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on FMCT at its plenary on August 11. This is an important achievement for the CD this year. Today I would like to expound on the position of China on another important Agenda item, namely the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.

Before touching upon that, I would also like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Delegation, congratulations to the Brazilian delegation on Brazil's accession to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It is at the first plenary of the current part of this year's session that Ambassador Lafer of Brazil informed the CD of the important events. All of us may still recall that, on May 11, the date when the CD started its second part meeting, the shocking and disturbing nuclear tests in South Asia took place. The two developments constitute a striking difference and a sharp contrast. As an important country in the world, Brazil has taken responsible actions on the question of international nuclear non-proliferation and moved a major step towards the right direction. It will produce a positive impact on strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and is conducive to peace and security both at regional and global levels, and therefore has won high opinion and appreciation from the international community. It is our hope that countries that are not yet States Parties to NPT should emulate the example set by Brazil and accede to NPT at an early date. We also call upon those countries that have not signed CTBT to do so as soon as possible. In doing so, they will make their due contributions to strengthening nuclear non-proliferation and promoting nuclear disarmament.


Mr. President,

The Resolution 52/37 adopted by UN General Assembly last year calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to reestablish an Ad Hoc Committee on outer space and recognizes that “negotiations for the conclusion of an international agreement or agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space remain a priority task” so that outer space should be explored and exploited by all countries solely for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of humanity. This demonstrates the great importance attached to the issue of prevention of an arms race in outer space by the international community. China fully subscribes to this UN Resolution.

However, there seems to be a view that there does not exist an arms race in outer space at present and therefore, “the prevention of an arms race in outer space" should not be a priority for the CD. The Chinese Delegation cannot agree with this opinion. The fact is that the series of activities of all-out developing and testing of outer space weapons or weapon systems in recent years have already given rise to concerns in many countries around the world. Prevention of an arms race in outer space has become an actual and urgent task for the international community.

We may still recall that during the 1980s the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (SDI) once left the whole world perplexed with the looming prospect of an outer space laden with weapons. The end of the Cold War has not led to the real demise of the "Star Wars” (SDI). Many of the technologies developed for SDI have been switched to some other outer space weapon programs. The Theater Missile Defense system (TMD) which is currently under research and development by some country continues to utilize some of the “Star Wars” concepts and military technologies. For instance, with the technology for space-based Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile developed in the Cold War, the interceptor of Navy Area Wide Defense system is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in outer space at the altitude of 500 Km. The Theater High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which derives from the SDI intercepting system against strategic ballistic missiles, can intercept ballistic missiles not only within the atmosphere but also in outer space. The Space-Based Infrared System satellite, which can provide tracking and guiding assistance for interceptors, is also under research and development. In addition, the research of “the space-based laser weapon” has been intensified. This weapon system is capable of not only intercepting ballistic missiles, but also attacking satellites. Last October, some country conducted the first test of using high-energy chemical laser to attack satellites, which gave rise to world-wide concern. People are becoming more and more worried about the possible emergence and actual deployment of various kinds of outer space weapon systems, including anti-missile laser weapon and ASAT weapons in the near future.

Those weapon systems under research may differ in forms: some are deployed entirely in outer space or target at objects in outer space, and some rely on space to provide target information for ground weapon systems. However, they all serve one purpose, that is, to seek absolute strategic superiority and absolute security for one or a few countries. The consequence will be turning outer space into a base for weapons and a battle field. This will upset regional and global strategic stability, trigger off new arms race and undermine international peace and security. The international community has shown its grave concern and vigilance over this prospect.

While the existing international legal instruments concerning outer space, such as Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, prohibit the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, they do not ban in a comprehensive way the testing, deployment and use of any other kind of weapons or weapon systems, thus inadequate in preventing an arms race in outer space. Some treaties which once played a role, such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), have been seriously weakened through so-called understanding or re-interpretation, thereby leaving the door open for some country to develop and even deploy highly sophisticated TMD systems which intercept missiles in outer space.

Against such backdrop, it has become indeed an actual and urgent issue to prevent an arms race in outer space. The international community must take resolute action to prevent such arms race from becoming a reality. It is precisely for this reason that the 52nd UNGA adopted Resolution 52/37 recognizing that “negotiations for the conclusion of an international agreement or agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space remain a priority task”. For years, many countries, including a large majority of the CD members, have been actively advocating for the CD to conduct negotiations on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Mr. President,

Since 1982 when the item “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” was first put on its Agenda, the CD had set up relevant Ad Hoc Committee for ten years in succession. Although for various reasons, the Committee was unable to commence the work of formulating international legal instruments banning the testing, deployment and use of weapon and preventing an arms race in outer space, wide-range discussions and consultations were held on questions related to relevant definitions, guidelines, existing treaties, and confidence-building measures. With these efforts, valuable experience has been accumulated and the groundwork been lain for further work.

At the turn of the century, with the rapid development of space technology, concerted efforts of the whole international community are called for both to ensure the peaceful use of outer space and to free it from a new arms race. In this regard, many countries put forward some thoughtful views and proposals during the Ad Hoc Committee's ten-year work. Some delegations also listed and analyzed existing treaties, agreements, and other international legal instruments relating to outer space. All these efforts have enhanced mutual understanding among delegations and made it possible to formulate an international agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space through negotiations. The Chinese Delegation expresses its appreciation to those delegations that had made positive contributions to the work on this item. The Chinese Delegation stands ready to participate in a constructive manner in deliberations on any proposals and views in this regard.

As early as 1985, China submitted to the first Ad Hoc Committee its position paper on the issue of prevention of an arms race in outer space(CD/579). In that paper, China clearly pointed out that outer space is the common heritage of mankind, that the exploration and use of outer space should serve to promote the economic, scientific and cultural development of all countries and benefit humanity and that China opposes arms race of any kind in outer space.

China is of the view that, at present, when addressing this item, the CD should take into full account the fact that the development, research and possible deployment of some weapon system including the TMD will introduce the weapon systems into outer space, thus immediate action should be taken to prevent weaponization of outer space and to ban the test, deployment and use of any weapon systems in outer space and prohibit the utilization of outer space for striking ground targets. Countries with the most advanced space capabilities should undertake special responsibilities in ensuring the exclusive peaceful uses of outer space and commit themselves not to test, deploy or use any weapon system and its components in outer space pending the conclusion of a multilateral agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space,.

The Chinese Delegation would suggest and encourage the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research to conduct research work on the development, testing and possible deployment of outer space weapons. Meanwhile, we also welcome experts from the CD member states to brief the Conference on the current situation in this regard.

The Special Coordinator of this item, Ambassador Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, stated in his progress report that “it was also generally understood that while there continues to be no objection in principle to the re-establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee, further consultations would be needed as to when that decision can be taken”. It is our hope that all the CD members will demonstrate necessary political will and flexibility, so as to enable the relevant consultations bear early and positive results, and the CD could begin its substantive work on the effective prevention of an arms race in outer space as early as possible and live up to the high expectation of the international community .

I thank you, Mr. President.