WILPF Statement in support of Keep Space for Peace Week

8 October 2008

WILPF Statement in support of Keep Space for Peace Week

The first United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Outer Space, issued in 1958, recognizes that outer space should be used only for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humankind. In October 1967, WILPF welcomed the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty and continues to reaffirm its goals by promoting and supporting efforts to prevent the weaponization of outer space and by calling for its demilitarization. One aspect of that support is WILPF co-sponsorship each year of Keep Space for Peace Week in cooperation with the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Dozens of other citizens groups around the world participate actively in the week of protest, action, and education. Our groups initiated Keep Space for Peace Week in response to UN World Space Week, in order to raise awareness of the need to prevent an arms race in outer space in order to achieve the goals of the Outer Space Treaty.

The overwhelming majority of United Nations member states are concerned that the weaponization of outer space will lead to an arms race. They insist that a multilateral treaty is the only way to prevent such an arms race. Each year in the General Assembly, member states adopt a resolution on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) by an overwhelming majority. In fact, every country in the world votes in favor of negotiating a treaty on PAROS—except for the United States, which has voted against it for the past three years, and Israel, which has abstained. The US administration argues that the existing multilateral arms control regime is sufficient, and that there is no need to address a “non-existent” threat.

Meanwhile, the United States and some of its allies—including Japan, South Korea, Israel, and NATO—continue to research, design, test, and deploy “missile defense” and small satellite technologies with dual-use capabilities. The United States invests millions of dollars into space technology aimed at dominating outer space and rejects resolutions and proposed treaties that it views will limit its actions.

In February this year, the United States shot down a failed satellite with a Standard Missile-3, whose primary vocation is interceptor for the US Navy’s “missile defense” system. This action could be considered an anti-satellite test, and is similar to the test that China conducted in 2007, for which the United States condemned the Chinese government. Both the Chinese and American tests created even more space debris, which already poses a considerable hazard for space objects. Potentially, such debris can prevent future stationing of satellites in space and limit or entirely prevent space access.

In August 2008, the United States signed an agreement with Poland to station US ground-based interceptors on Polish soil. In September, the Czech Republic agreed to a deal with the United States that will allow the US to build a “missile defense” radar based near Prague. The Russian government has responded angrily to both agreements, arguing that these elements of the US “missile defense” system upset the strategic balance in Europe. Russia has already begun developing “advanced” missiles that can “out-smart” the system.

WILPF believes that such actions and agreements by the United States will instigate a new arms race and increase geopolitical tensions and international insecurity. WILPF calls on the governments of the Czech Republic and Poland to not ratify the signed agreements.

WILPF welcomes the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) presented to the Conference on Disarmament in February this year by China and the Russian Federation. Although the draft treaty does not address all the questions raised by governments and NGOs over the past years, WILPF views the draft treaty as a positive step and maintains that multilateral, verifiable, non-discriminatory, legally-binding instruments are the key to ensuring international peace and security.

WILPF believes that arms control measures such as a treaty preventing the weaponization of outer space will not limit any state’s right to use outer space for peaceful purposes but rather will ensure that such use is possible. WILPF calls on the members of the Conference on Disarmament to end their twelve year deadlock and to begin serious discussions on that draft and/or other draft texts with a view to establishing an ad hoc committee to negotiate such a treaty within the CD.