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Diplomacy in Action

Pursuing Space TCBMs for Long-Term Sustainability and Security

Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
International Symposium on Sustainable Space Development and Utilization for Humankind
Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan
February 28, 2013


Date: 02/28/2013 Description: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank Rose delivers remarks at a symposium in Tokyo, Japan. - (Jaisha Wray) State Dept Image I am very pleased and honored to be back in Tokyo for the second International Symposium on Sustainable Space Development and Utilization for Humankind. I had such a great experience during last year’s symposium and would like to thank the Japan Space Forum for inviting me back. I am pleased that this symposium is becoming an annual event that highlights how space debris poses an increasingly serious threat to the long-term sustainability of the space environment, and I would like to commend the Japan Space Forum for continuing to organize these symposia. I’d also like to thank the Office of National Space Policy; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry; and the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies for their support of this symposium.

Last year I discussed the vital importance of utilizing space assets for disaster monitoring and mitigation. Japan’s use of space assets during the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami shed light on the vital importance of space assets for disaster monitoring and mitigation, and I applaud Japan’s continuing development of space-based capabilities to better predict and aid future disasters.

Today, I’d like to begin by discussing another example of how space assets proved to be critical during what became known as “Superstorm Sandy,” which impacted the eastern seaboard of the United States last October. Reports estimated that this storm resulted in over $60 billion in damage and other losses in the United States, including the damage or destruction of over 600,000 homes and business. Prior to the storm, scientists utilized global data from satellites as well as from weather balloons, commercial airplanes, buoys at sea, and weather stations in order to predict the track and intensity of the storm. Several days before Superstorm Sandy hit the United States, models based on data from these sensors predicted that the storm would make landfall in New Jersey. In the end, the storm hit just five miles from where the earliest forecasts estimated it would.

The data derived from satellites proved to be particularly significant in this case. Analysis showed that forecast of Sandy’s track would have been off by hundreds of miles without the critical information provided from polar satellites. In fact, analysis shows that without satellite data, forecasting models would have shown Sandy remaining at sea rather than making landfall in the United States.

The accurate forecasting of Sandy’s path was essential in allowing people enough time to evacuate, and experts postulate the advance warning may have saved thousands of lives. This is but one example of how truly reliant we are on space capabilities today, and how space assets can have a tremendous impact on preserving life and property on Earth. In order to ensure that we can continue to utilize these capabilities and obtain their benefits, we need to take action now to sustain the space environment.

I will focus my remarks today on how pursuing transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs), such as the International Code of Conduct, measurably contributes to ensuring that we can continue to utilize space for future disasters as well as the many other benefits space assets provide. In addition to discussing the next steps to advance the Code, I will also discuss other ongoing efforts to establish multilateral TCBMs such as the work of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and the study by the UN Group of Governmental Experts on space TCBMs. Finally, I’d like to discuss the successful ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Workshop on Space Security that was held last December and how this workshop contributed to our efforts to preserve the space environment.

Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures

In accordance with President Obama’s 2010 U.S. National Space Policy, the United States is pursuing bilateral and multilateral TCBMs to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space. TCBMs are the means by which governments can address challenges and share information with the aim of creating mutual understanding and reducing tensions. They consist of pragmatic, voluntary, near-term actions that we can do to increase trust and prevent misperceptions, miscalculations, and mistrust between nations. To overcome these dangers and risks requires, in part, building confidence between nations, which can be achieved with transparency, openness, and predictability through, for example, information-sharing. TCBMs, also have the potential of enhancing our knowledge of the space environment, by addressing important areas such as orbital debris, space situational awareness, and collision avoidance, as well as undertake activities that will help to increase familiarity and trust and encourage openness among space actors. TCBMs can be undertaken globally or regionally, bilaterally, multilaterally, or unilaterally. Today, I will focus on the numerous multilateral efforts that we are pursuing.

Pursuing an International Code of Conduct

A recent space TCBM effort is the European Union’s draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, or “the Code”. As I discussed last year, in January 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. decision to work with the European Union (EU) and other space-faring nations to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. The development of such a non-legally binding Code of Conduct is an effective, pragmatic and timely way of strengthening the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment. The European Union is leading efforts to develop a text that is acceptable to the greatest number of governments. We believe the EU’s latest draft is a useful foundation and constructive starting point for developing a consensus on an International Code.

The stated purpose of the draft Code is to “enhance the security, safety, and sustainability of all outer space activities,” which is fundamentally in the interests of all nations. A widely subscribed International Code would establish internationally adopted TCBMs – including “best practices” or “rules of the road” that would encourage responsible behavior in outer space. A Code of Conduct would also help reduce the risk of misunderstandings, miscalculations, and misperceptions by committing States to share space policies, strategies, and procedures, thus improving the stability and security of the space environment.

Additionally, a Code of Conduct would increase the transparency of operations in space to reduce the danger of collisions and the hazards of debris-generating events. Considering the serious and enduring hazard posed by orbital debris and potential collisions, I think we can all agree that cooperation is necessary to address and mitigate this growing problem. This has been illustrated multiple times over the past few years when astronauts on the International Space Station have been forced to take shelter when debris came close to the Station. Had that debris collided with the space station, it could have caused catastrophic damage and endangered the crew, which regularly includes Japanese astronauts.

An International Code will establish a set of voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures and would also build upon existing instruments and measures relating to conduct in the use of outer space. For example, the Code would commit Subscribing States – albeit with specific exceptions – to refrain from conducting any intentional damage to, or destruction of, a space object.

Next Steps for the Code

You may be wondering what the next steps are for this initiative. The United States has been consulting closely with the EU and others on the Code, and we will continue to shape an International Code through international consultations and negotiations. The United States and the EU also continue to actively engage a large number of countries on the Code (and I have the frequent flyer miles to prove it. In fact, I think the only person with more frequent flyer miles than me is an astronaut!). We are greatly appreciative of our close allies such as Japan and Australia who are also engaging other nations on the Code.

On June 5, 2012, the EU held a kick-off meeting in Vienna, Austria and released a new draft of the Code. We look forward to continuing our close partnership with the EU, Japan, Australia, and many other nations in order to advance the Code.

Other Ongoing TCBM Efforts

In addition to the Code, there are a number of other complementary ongoing efforts to establish multilateral TCBMs: that is, for example, the work of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, or COPUOS, and the study by the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Space TCBMs. These efforts will be discussed in further detail during this symposium so I will just briefly touch on them.

While many approaches to ensuring stability in space come from the “top-down,” there is great value in “bottom-up” approaches from experts and satellite operators, such as the efforts of the Working Group on Long-Term Sustainability of Space Activities of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS. This working group is a key forum for the international development of guidelines for space activities. One of the groups is examining best practices for “Space Debris, Space Operations, and Space Situational Awareness” and has had active participation by experts from Japan, the United States, Europe, Russia, and other leading spacefaring nations. Many of the best practice guidelines addressed by this working group are integral to our efforts to pursue TCBMs that enhance sustainability in space.

A second multilateral TCBM effort currently being undertaken is the UN GGE study on Outer Space TCBMs, for which I serve as the U.S. expert. Under the capable chairmanship of Victor Vasiliev of Russia, the GGE offers an opportunity to advance a range of voluntary and non-legally binding TCBMs in space that have the potential to mitigate the dangers and risks in an increasingly contested and congested space environment. The key objective of the GGE is to develop a consensus report that outlines a list of pragmatic space TCBMs that nations can sign up to on a voluntary basis. As part of its effort to draw upon as much expertise as possible, the GGE welcomes written contributions from intergovernmental bodies, industry and private sector, civil society, and other UN Member States not already represented in the group. The GGE serves as a real opportunity to move forward with pragmatic steps to strengthen stability in space through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral measures.

ARF Space Security Workshop

The United States, and our allies and partners, including Japan, are clearly committed to addressing the challenges facing the space environment. However, we cannot address these challenges alone. All nations—established spacefaring nations, emerging spacefaring nations, and those nations just beginning to consider how they can benefit from space capabilities – should work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve its use for the benefit of future generations.

The Asia-Pacific region in particular is seeing rapid expansion in its number of spacefaring nations, and rapid development of those nation’s capabilities. For that reason, I was extremely pleased and honored to speak at the first-ever ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Workshop on Space Security, held in early December of last year. This workshop was organized by the Governments of Vietnam and Australia and sponsored by the Governments of Japan and the United States. This event was the first time the ARF had discussed space security issues, but the participants agreed that space is vital for the development and security of all nations, and that we must work together to ensure the sustainability and stability of the space environment. We hope that the ARF will consider holding additional workshops on this worthy subject.


In September 1900, 8,000 people were killed when a hurricane struck in Galveston, Texas. There was no warning system in place at this time, and it wasn’t for another 70 years until satellites were used in weather forecasting. We have come a long way since then, and our space capabilities have become instrumental in saving lives during national disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy.

We are increasingly reliant on space, not only when disasters strike, but also for our day-to-day life. However, our ability to continue to use space for these benefits is at serious risk. Accidents or irresponsible acts against space systems would not only harm the space environment, but would also disrupt services on which the international community depends. As a result, we must take action now and pursue TCBMs in space, including the ones that I discussed today. These TCBMs will enhance the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment. Protecting the space environment for future generations is in the vital interests of the United States, Japan, and the entire global community.

Thank you very much.

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