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Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space 

Sections

General Provisions

Current Status

Documents

References and Links

General Provisions
The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) is a UN resolution that reaffirms the fundamental principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and advocates for a ban on the weaponization of space.  The PAROS resolution acknowledges the limitations of existing laws related to outer space and recognizes that the Outer Space Treaty “by itself does not guarantee the prevention of an arms race in outer space.”  The resolution advocates for further measures to prevent an arms race in outer space by, among other things, urging all state parties, particularly those with space capabilities, to adhere to the objectives of PAROS.  In addition, it calls on the Conference on Disarmament (CD)—the UN disarmament negotiating forum—to establish an adhoc committee regarding PAROS resolution issues.

Current Status

In 1981, debate over the weaponization of outer space led the CD to begin talks regarding the potential for a PAROS treaty.  The CD established an ad hoc committee on PAROS in 1985.  However, Western opposition, particularly from the United States, thwarted treaty negotiations and the committee was dissolved in 1994.  The committee has yet to reconvene despite an annual, near-unanimous vote by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the CD approving the PAROS resolution.  The United States is the only country to vote against the resolution, with Israel abstaining.  The United States argues that PAROS is unnecessary because there are no weapons—and thus no arms race—in outer space at this time.

Since 2005, the UNGA has adopted further measures to ensure the prevention an arms race in outer space, approving an annual resolution on “Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities.”  China and Russia have produced several working papers on PAROS, which offer suggestions for different confidence building measures together with suggested verification measures.  Some of these suggestions include:  exchanges of information, demonstrations, notifications, consultations, and thematic workshops.  In 2008, China and Russia submitted a draft treaty to the CD entitled “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects” (PPWT). The PPWT reiterates the importance of a weapon-free outer space, defines relevant terms such as “weapons in outer space,” and proposes the creation of an additional protocol to establish “measures of verification of compliance with the Treaty.”

References and Links

Developing a New Outer Space Treaty. (n.d.). Reaching Critical Will. Retrieved June, from http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/paros/ostreaty.html#responses

Estabrooks, S. (2006). Update on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. The Ploughshares Monitor, 27(3). Retrieved from http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/monitor/mons06c.pdf

Gopalaswamy, B. (2010, April 5). The Perils of ASATs. Space News. Retrieved from http://www.spacenews.com/commentaries/100405-perils-asats.html

Preventing the placement of weapons in outer space A backgrounder on the draft treaty by Russia and China. (n.d.). Reaching Critical Will. Retrieved from http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/paros/wgroup/PAROS-PPWT-factsheet.pdf