UNDC Space Militarisation: A Game of Compromise?
07 June 2022
The United Nations Defense Council started with delegates aggressively pushing for their own agendas and interests, then a scramble for consensus.
“There is a need for compromise,” said the delegate of Egypt in an interview with the New York Times, “Every country seems to want to take charge of the conversation, this is why (the council) isn't moving forward as it should be.”
So far, there was still a large point of contention surrounding the definition of certain terms. This included terms such as “offensive” and “defensive”, “dual-satellites'', “weapons of mass destruction”, but more importantly, the term “militarisation” was under heavy scrutiny.
“Militarisation would be a deployment of weapons with indiscriminate and disproportionate ability to attack satellites,” said the delegate of China, “there must also be a statement showing it was intended for militarisation, with illicit and illegal placement of assets into space.”
The definition given by the delegate of China has been the current official position of the United Nations in the Outer Space Treaty. However, other delegations had alternative definitions.
“Militarisation should be direct or indirect forms of aggression,” said the delegate of Uganda, “and it should be guided by governmental authorities.”
While the interpretations of “direct”, “indirect” are vague, the New York Times understands that the definition given by the delegate of Uganda will be further specified.
In the determination of the nature of satellites, the UNDC also heard different perspectives.
“A satellite should be measured by its capabilities,” said the delegate of Israel in the General Speakers’ List (GSL), “we should be able to shoot down satellites with the potential to cause mass destruction rather than its intent.”
Other delegates however had different takes on the matter.
“China agrees with Israel on (judging a satellite with) intention. Because intention shows if the satellites were used in a harmful capacity,” said the delegate of China, “However, to a certain extent, (judging a satellite by its capabilities) can be agreed upon, only if it concerns the satellites containing weapons of mass destruction, but satellites may contain weapons used to carry out helpful activities.”
China has done intensive research into Anti-Satellite weapons in the past, for example on 11 January 2007, where a hypersonic ballistic missile was shot from the Xichang Space Center, completely destroying a Chinese satellite. China officials said it was a peaceful space experiment in neutralizing space debris.
The UNDC have agreed so far on the inevitability of space militarisation, but have not yet come to tangible consensus on definitions or resolutions for the future of international space activity.
“Moving forward, we need to set priorities of topics, and establish a clearer agenda,” said the delegate of Turkey, “I would say compromising is key.”