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Statement by Counsellor SUN Lei of the Chinese Delegation at the Thematic Discussion on Outer Space

2017/10/17

Mr. Chairman,

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first satellite entering space, and the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty taking force. It is an especially important year in the history of human exploration and use of outer space.

For six decades, space technology and application has been an important impetus to human development, as they have brought benefits to all aspects of progress ranging from economy, society, livelihood to security, and become an indispensable arena for everyone's daily life. All countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development , have been able to benefit from space application through extensive international cooperation. The concept of a community of shared future for mankind is best demonstrated in outer space.

One important reason that has enabled immense achievements by human society through space application is the establishment of the principle of peaceful use from the very start of space era. This has not only guaranteed peace and serenity in space, but also laid solid foundation of mutual trust for space cooperation among all countries. In this sense, prevention of weaponization of and an arms race in outer space bears upon the common interests of all countries, and calls for common efforts of us all.

Mr. Chairman, I would elaborate on China's position on the main issues in current space security processes.

First, concerning the PAROS process,

Weaponization of and an arms race in outer space is the severe and fundamental threat faced by the international community in outer space. The UN has carried out a great amount of work on PAROS. Since 1981, the UNGA has adopted the resolution, emphasizing the importance and urgency of PAROS, and calling for the early negotiation of the relevant international legal document at the CD, which has been supported by an overwhelming majority of states, and seen no against from any state. This fully reflects the extensive agreement among the international community on the goal of PAROS.

China has been a dedicate advocate for non-weaponization of outer space, and made active effort in promoting an international legally-binding instrument on space arms control. In February 2008, China and Russia jointly submitted the draft of the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT, CD /1839) to the CD, and submitted an updated version (CD/1985) in June 2014, which has seen extensive support from the CD members. Some countries have raised questions about the draft PPWT. It should be pointed out that PPWT can effectively address the ASAT issue in a fundamental way by prohibiting the use or threat of force against outer space object. Questions on the scope, definition and verification can be discussed during the discussion on PPWT. Therefore, the most urgent task now is for the CD to start substantive work and commence negotiation.

Mr. Chairman,

This year, Russia and China have introduced a draft resolution on "Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space". The purpose is to establish a UN Group of Governmental Experts, holding 2 two-week sessions in Geneva, each in 2018 and 2019, to consider and make recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally-binding instrument on PAROS, including on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space. Its mandate also includes holding of a two-day open-ended informal consultative meeting in New York in 2019, so that all Member States can engage in interactive discussions and share their views. It's natural for UN mechanisms to have specific focus on the work. This GGE has a clear focus while keeping necessary inclusiveness by opening to other themes like TCBMs, etc, without specifically mentioning them. It is not desirable to be inclusive while deflating the focus.

This proposal has been tabled mainly on two considerations. First, given the urgency of PAROS, and the fact that PAROS has become the most mature agenda at the CD, there is a necessity for the international community to take further practical measures to create new momentum for the work on this issue. Secondly, we attach high importance to the role of the CD as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, hence hold the hope that the work of the GGE would promote the CD come out of the current stalemate and agree on a program of work to start substantive work at an early date.

To this effect, the draft resolution has clearly stated that once the CD agrees upon and implements a balanced and comprehensive program of work, which includes the negotiation of an international legally-binding instrument on PAROS, including on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space, the GGE will conclude its work and transfer its results to the CD. We hope for your co-sponsorship or support for this draft resolution.

Last year, China joined Russia and other states in sponsoring the GA resolution of "No first placement of weapons in outer space" which was adopted with an overwhelming majority. This is another demonstration of the common aspiration of the international community for PAROS. China will continue to sponsor this resolution this year.

Secondly, concerning transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) in outer space.

China attaches importance to the TCBMs in space activities, and has co-sponsored the relevant UN resolutions. China is of the view that proper TCBMs in space activities are conductive to enhancing mutual trust, reducing miscalculation and regulating space activities. Such measures help to maintain space security by complementing a negotiated international legal instrument on preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, but cannot replace the legal instrument.

This year, China has submitted national position papers to the Secretary General and UNOOSA, elaborating its views on TCBMs, and the measures taken by China in implementing the 2013 GGE report.

During this year's Disarmament Commission, China jointly proposed with relevant countries to include "preparation of recommendations of TCBMs in outer space activities with the goal PAROS". Therefore, in the UNDC next cycle, we hope relevant work by the UNDC will make contributions to maintaining peace and stability in space.

About the EU proposal on ICOC, a lot of countries have expressed their positions, by requesting the relevant negotiations to have a UN mandate, to be conducted within the UN framework and negotiated on the basis of consensus. These concerns shall be fully addressed in an open, fair and transparent manner by the initiator of this proposal.

Thirdly, concerning the joint session of the first and fourth committee on outer space

The recent second joint session by the first and fourth committee on outer space has been a successful one. This is in line with the merging tendency of space security and development issues, and constitute an important effort within the framework of the UN in dealing with space issue. This practice is conducive to promoting co-ordinations among different UN mechanisms in addressing challenges encountered in space security and sustainability.

Mr. Chairman,

Outer space is the common heritage of all humankind. It is the common responsibility of all countries to maintain security in space. China stands ready to make continuous efforts with the international community to safeguard lasting peace and security in space.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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