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  • Philip Jessup proposed the idea of a transnational law course. His vision of the subject was broad, including public and private international law; state and non-state actors; business, administrative, and political affairs; as well as negotiation and litigation. Inspired by his idea, TLB is only constrained by its pursuit to address all law transcending national frontiers.

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September 07, 2006


SS Yadav

It surprises me no end that you have been totally silent on the legal position of China's recent ASAT test. Nonetheless, I found this piece in an Indian Weekly and am pasting the same for everyone's consumption.
Sino shock (25-02-2007) - K.K. Nair

New laws to stop weaponisation of space needed

China destroyed an ageing weather satellite with an anti-satellite missile on January 11 and ever since the entire world has been in a state of general pandemonium. What shocked most people across the globe is the inability of prevailing legislation to prevent such a disastrous action.
The test proved that prevailing laws on outer-space need reforms. Most aspects ranging from the delimitation of outer space to the definitional issues surrounding peaceful uses of outer space are yet to be resolved in an acceptable manner. The prevailing lacuna has made such acts a norm rather than an exception.
The Chinese apparently capitalised on the legal lacuna of Article-4 of the Outer Space Treaty-1967 (OST) which says-Countries party to the treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction. Since the Chinese have not used a nuclear weapon or any other weapon of mass destruction, the test does not violate the law.
Secondly, the Chinese have destroyed their own Feng-Yun satellite and so it cannot be charged under Article-7 of the OST which says states are internationally liable for damage to another state (and its citizens) caused by its space objects. The Chinese, in this case have destroyed their own property, but any other space assets getting damaged due to the debris would cause the Chinese to be held accountable for their actions.
All said and done, the test will set a bad precedent. Others could follow suit for military, political or any other consideration. A case in point is the attempt by certain agencies to sell 'real-estate' on the moon based on their own self-serving interpretation of the subject.

Prevalent laws are arcane and were made for situations of the 1960s, at best the 1980s. For example, Article-5 of the OST-1967 bestows on space travellers the unique ambassadorial status of 'envoys of all mankind' and gives certain privileges to such envoys. This is a vestige of the pioneer era when astronauts or cosmonauts were personnel of select calibre representing their particular countries. Now, with the advent of space tourism, a variety of passengers go to space driven by their quest for pleasure and self-indulgence rather than national pride.
The new millennium would need a new set of laws which would factor in the prevailing technological, political, commercial and military advances in outer space. To begin with, the issue of militarisation and weaponisation will have to be put in proper perspective.
The term militarisation implies non-aggressive use of outer space for military functions like communication, navigation and observation. Weaponisation, by contrast, implies the actual placement of weapons, or their use in or from outer space.
Most modern militaries across the world use satellites for better communications, navigation, weather-forecasting and spying. But, ?weaponisation can surely be ?æprevented for the good of mankind. Nations with a variety of interests and efforts in outer space would have to arrive at a mutually-acceptable and workable set of laws on outer space.
The writer is research officer
at the Centre for Air-Power Studies,
and author of Space,
the Frontiers of Modern Defence.
The link to the above is

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