Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Make outer space safe for all

By Li Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2011-08-03 07:52

It is thus incumbent on all countries to hold consultations and discussions to eliminate debris from space, prevent satellite collisions, and ensure reasonable allocation of resources and establishment of a code of conduct. And it is absolutely necessary that the needs and concerns of all countries using space be considered in full. It is also necessary to guarantee universal participation and consensus through consultations while formulating space norms.

In this sense, the US' willingness to talk with Russia and China is welcome. But the US should recognize that talks on space security are related to the interests of all countries and the formulation of international laws and rules of conduct should not be monopolized by some powers.

During the coordination and dialogue process, big powers should more actively promote multilateral dialogue and cooperation under the United Nations' framework. Truly effective and generally accepted international rules on space can be established only if they are based on equal participation of all countries.

China has always advocated peaceful use of space. Over the next few decades, the Chinese government's focus will be on developing the national economy and improving the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion Chinese people. China has to develop its defense capabilities in space but will avoid being involved in an arms race in outer space.

China has been urging the international community to sign a treaty to prevent weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, maintain the peaceful use of space and create a peaceful international environment that would help China's economic and social development.

China pursues a defensive defense strategy, has no intention of estab lishing "hegemony" and doesn't believe in or pursue absolute security. Instead, it promotes common safety through mutually beneficial cooperation. Hence, even if China becomes capable of contending with the US in overall strength in the future, it will remember the erstwhile Soviet Union's experience to desist from engaging in an arms race in space with the US.

That Washington wants to establish dialogue with Beijing on space shows that the US is concerned about the direction and intention of China's space strategy. China should understand the US' concern and respond openly and confidently. China has always wanted dialogue and opposed confrontation, so it will never reject an offer of dialogue. But the dialogue should be based on equality and mutual respect.

The US' policies and legal frameworks, including arms sales to Taiwan, high-tech exports restrictions on China and non-use of Chinese rockets to launch US satellites seriously undermine the political foundation of China-US dialogue on space.

Besides carrying out such dialogue, China and the US should promote pragmatic cooperation in space and make exchanges of space-related information part of their bilateral talks' mechanism, for the differences in Beijing's defensive defense strategy and Washington's deterrent strategy have created a gap between the extents of transparency of the two countries' militaries.

The author is secretary-general of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

(China Daily 08/03/2011 page9)

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