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Diplomacy in Action

A Code for Outer Space, as Seen From the State Department

Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Letter to the Editor Published in The New York Times
Washington, DC
March 15, 2012


To the Editor:

Re “Hands Off the Heavens,” by John R. Bolton and John Yoo (Op-Ed, March 9): From GPS navigation to cellular communications, the benefits of space permeate our lives and are vital to our national security and economy. Maintaining American leadership is absolutely critical.

But orbital debris and irresponsible actions in space have increased the chance of collisions that could have damaging consequences for the United States and others.

As more nations and organizations use space, the United States must work with our allies and partners to minimize these problems. The United States is joining with the European Union and others to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities to reduce the potential threat to American space assets by endorsing nonbinding best practices and transparency and confidence-building measures.

It is important to clarify several points with respect to the code. It is still under development, we would not subscribe to any code unless it protects and enhances our national security, and the code would not be legally binding.

An International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities would be like the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation adopted by the previous administration and would not require Senate advice and consent. As we move forward, we will continue to consult with Congress, American industry and the American public.

Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Washington, March 14, 2012


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