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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD BULLETIN, March 22, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


Ambassador Hu Xiaodi of China chaired the 871st plenary of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), beginning his four-week CD Presidency. Ambassador Vasily Sidorov of Russia spoke on the upcoming conference on outer space in Moscow.

Plenary Proceedings

Ambassador Sidorov spoke on the conference on outer space, to be held in Russia on April 11-14. Sidorov said the purpose of the conference was two-fold: it would address both the questions of preventing an arms race in outer space (PAROS) as well as prospects for its peaceful use. Representatives of space agencies, foreign and defence ministries, scientific academies, research centres, universities, private enterprises and others had been invited to attend the conference. Moscow expected more than 40 countries and international organizations, including the UN, to take part.

Explaining Moscow's rationale for organising the meeting, Sidorov said Russia had "taken into account the fact that human activities in outer space may pursue various objectives". They could be activities that strengthened international security through building confidence and ensuring compliance with international arms control agreements. However, there was "a real threat that military outer space systems could be eventually created and deployed" and undermine global strategic stability. Russia wanted to draw attention to this and "prevent by joint efforts such dangerous developments". Russia believed "that a speedy elaboration of an international legal regime prohibiting deployment in outer space of weapons other than WMD, should become one of the principal tasks of the world community". Current legal instruments contained "blank spots" and did not ensure an effective ban. Russia wanted an accord clearly and permanently preventing "the stationing of any type of weapons in outer space", confirming the decision of the international community to "renounce the use or threat of use of force in outer space, from outer space or towards outer space". Sidorov emphasized that Russia's initiative was of a universal nature and not directed against any state.

Ambassador Hu of China made his opening remarks as CD President. Hu approvingly recalled comments on the Conference by the retired CD Deputy Secretary General Abdelkader Bensmail (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 50, September 2000). Hu summed up the situation in the CD as one in which "the [political] situation is more powerful than individual effort". Hu said that "empty talk of arms control and disarmament in isolation from the international security situation is nothing more than an attempt to build castles in the air". He believed the direction of the CD depended on joint efforts of the whole international community. The policy orientations and behaviour of major powers would "play a significant role in these efforts". Hu said he would continue to explore the three scenarios regarding the work programme and the four proposals for complementary action in parallel, as set out by former CD President Ambassador Vega last week (see CD Bulletin, March 15).

The next plenary will be held on March 27, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva and it will be chaired by Ambassador Hu.

To see the speeches, please visit the website of WILPF at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/cd/thisweek/thisweekindex.htm

Jenni Rissanen is the Acronym Institute's Analyst attending the CD in Geneva. For her latest, in-depth assessment of developments see 'Geneva Update' in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 54.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.