Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Space Code Debate and the Right to Self Defense under Article 51, piece published in today's Space Daily....

Here's my piece on the space code debate and the Right to Self Defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, published in today's Space Daily.

Article 51 has not sparked any debate in India or in any other Asian countries, however, many countries across Latin America - a region that will soon represent a significant percentage of overall space activities - see this as particularly troubling because they see this clause as further opening the door to conflict in space.

For full article, click here.

Advancement in science and technology in the last two decades has transformed the debate on national security in a considerable manner. In particular, outer space has become a critical topic for many countries concerned with the future of socioeconomic and security development that relies on space-based services.

In addition, a renewed emphasis on hard power and the proliferation of space technology has made the potential for space weaponization much more real. Efforts are being made to write new "rules of the road" to govern outer space activities in order to reduce the potential for weaponization of space.

While there are several existing mechanisms and institutions - including the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the European Union's proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (ICoC) - that address some of the current and emerging challenges, they have all been found wanting.

The ICoC represents a particularly ambitious initiative because it seeks to establish norms of behaviour for all space activities, whether civilian or military in nature. While many of the concerns and objections that have been raised in respect of the ICoC have been procedural, there have also been problems raised regarding its content.

One serious objection relates to Article 51 of the UN Charter, namely the right to self defence which is a key clause in the ICoC. Many countries in Asia do not see this clause as a problem; in fact Article 51 has not sparked any debate in India or in any other Asian countries.

However, many countries across Latin America - a region that will soon represent a significant percentage of overall space activities - see this as particularly troubling because they see this clause as further opening the door to conflict in space.

The fear is that this right may be used as a pretext to weaponize their capabilities. The Latin American countries, most of whom are still in the early-development stages of their space programmes, do not yet possess counter-space technology. Understandably, they perceive their ability to defend their interests in outer space as inadequate.

The general perception is that a reference to the right to self-defence in a Code or any other instrument makes that right stronger and will increase the likelihood that it will be invoked to justify the carrying out of armed hostilities in outer space.

However, the provision of such a right in the UN Charter has not resulted in large numbers of states invoking this right. This right is more of a fall back option in the face of Article 2(4) on the prohibition of the use of force. Nevertheless, some of the developing countries perceive the reference to the right of self-defence in the Code as problematic.

However, the absence of a reference to the right to self-defence in a code does not abolish the right should there be an armed attack. The reference to Article 51 or the absence of it changes nothing on the ground. It is an established part of international law, embodied in the UN Charter. The concern, therefore, is less about creating a right but rather further legitimizing the spread of conflict to the space domain.

In this context, Latin American countries have expressed a concern that a reference to Article 51 of the UN Charter will encourage countries to resort to armed conflict rather than work through peaceful means of conflict resolution first.

The argument is that, for instance, if North Korea has a satellite in space that aids in targeting its missile force, South Korea will invoke the right to self-defense and shoot down the satellite rather than engage in talks with North Korea directly or through multilateral channels. The counter point may be that Article 51 comes into play only in case of an armed attack-the crucial trigger for the activation of this right.

Regardless, it must also be acknowledged that the militarization of outer space has already occurred to a large extent and the trend towards weaponization is gathering momentum. Great power politics has further strengthened the reference to this right. But this may be more true in the Asian context than in Latin America or Africa, where states are in the early stages of space development and utilization. Established space powers will likely prefer that this right to self-defence be emphasized in a code in order to ensure that no options for the protection of their interests are taken off the table.

In order to dispel some of the scepticism around the inclusion of a reference to the right of self-defence, the Code could balance the reference with another provision prohibiting the use of force and requiring negotiations and other peaceful means to resolve a crisis as the preferred option.

As efforts to develop an ICoC accelerate, states need to come up with constructive ways of debating this issue. We cannot let this issue become a stumbling block that impedes progress on the code as a whole, particularly when the immediate impact of the offending language is arguably neutral.

States that are insistent on including the reference to this right must agree to a balancing provision in order to allay the fears of the developing nations such as those in Latin America.

States that do not want this right reiterated also need to be flexible enough to accept some compromise that might not necessarily remove this clause from the code but ensures that this right remains one of last resort.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

China, a major factor pushing changes in Japan's security narrative. a short essay on the Japanese defence White Paper....

Here's a short essay of mine on the China factor in Japan's defense White Paper. The White Paper that was released in June highlights important issues facing regional and international community such as WMD proliferation, safe and continued access to global commons like sea, outer space and cyber space, and international terrorism, from a Japanese perspective. In terms of the regional threat perception, North Korea and China figure prominently in the paper. Satoshi Morimoto, the Japanese Defence Minister, in his introduction to the White Paper, notes that the security environment faced by Japan is "increasingly harsh."

For full essay, click here.

Japan's new White Paper on defence was released on 25 June, 2013. A comprehensive document, the first part deals with the security environment both at the regional and global levels and then it looks at the defence policies of important countries and regions - the US, Korean Peninsula, China, Russia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and Europe - and important issues facing the international community such as WMD proliferation, safe and continued access to global commons like sea, outer space and cyber space, and international terrorism, from a Japanese perspective. However, the most interesting and pertinent one is the section on developing Japan's Dynamic Defence Force1.

Satoshi Morimoto, the Japanese Defence Minister, in his introduction to the White Paper, notes that the security environment faced by Japan is "increasingly harsh." The major emphasis on Japan's regional threat perception was on North Korea and China. North Korea's continuing nuclear and missile development efforts - including the recent missile test that Pyongyong called as a "satellite" test - was particularly highlighted. In addition to the three rounds of nuclear tests, Tokyo is worried that North Korea could be "developing nuclear weapons using highly-enriched uranium." Pyongyang's continuing development of delivery mechanisms, including the long-range ballistic missiles, also pose "a significant threat to Japan's security, and are absolutely unacceptable as they are significantly detrimental to the peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the international community."

Next, the White Paper focuses on China's military modernisation along with its rising defence budget. Even though China justifies Taiwan as the main driver of its modernisation, the report notes that China's rise as a major economic and political power will dictate it to expand its military capabilities and also that the global community will pay greater attention to China. However, the report notes that China's rapid expansion and modernisation of its military and the enhancement of its power projection capabilities, along with lack of transparency, are alarming not only to Japan and the region but also to the larger global community. While the report acknowledged that the publication of Chinese defence white papers since 1998 is a means to address the transparency issue, the document also notes that "China has not yet achieved the levels of transparency expected of a responsible major power in the international society."

The document noted that the Chinese strategy "emphasize(s) not only physical means but also non-physical means with respect to military affairs and warfare, incorporated the concept of "Three Warfares"-"Psychological Warfare," "Media Warfare," and "Legal Warfare"-into the tasks of the political work by military, and declared a policy of "close coordination between military struggle and political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and legal endeavors."

As for the long-term plans and objectives, the White Paper said that China will want to reach "basic mechanization and achieve a major progress in construction of informatization by 2020." This is expected to be done with the long-standing primary objective of developing capabilities to win a local war under informationized conditions, while beefing up to undertake multiple and diverse military missions and "complete the historical military missions in a new phase of the new century."

The rising Chinese defence budget is a key issue. The paper says the nominal size of China's announced national defence budget has more than doubled in the past five years and has grown nearly 30-fold in the last 24 years. The paper noted that the announced figures are only a part of the actual military spending, pointing out that "equipment procurement costs and research and development expenses" are not part of the budget.

The paper, in addition, goes into great detail about the growing size of the Chinese inventory - various types and ranges of ballistic missiles: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), intermediate-range ballistic missiles/medium-range ballistic missiles (IRBM/MRBM), and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) - and what it might mean for Japan and the region. In addition to procurement that goes unabated, the paper notes with alarm China's ability to serial production of missiles in large numbers for domestic as well as export purposes.

Increasing number of Chinese vessels in close proximity to Japanese waters engaged in information gathering activities and training exercises has also been highlighted in the White Paper. There have also been Chinese government ships "engaged in monitoring activities for protection of its maritime rights and interests" in addition to advancements by Chinese naval surface vessels to the Pacific Ocean since 2008.

China has criticised the new White Paper in harsh terms and has called on Japan to "conduct some introspection and do more to facilitate regional peace and stability." The criticism has been along expected lines, with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying arguing that "China adheres to a road of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy with a defensive nature," while dismissing the issue of opaqueness about the military and saying that it does not pose threat to any country. On the Senkaku islands, the spokeswoman said that China will "not change its position and determination" and that it will take any additional measure that is necessary to protect its sovereignty.

Given the growing number of challenges, Japan foresees development of defensive capability in accordance with the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, despite difficult economic scenario. This defensive capability will involve development of the Dynamic Defense Force on a priority basis. The paper notes that in the backdrop of heightened military modernisation in the region, "not only deterrence through the existence of the defense force per se, but also "dynamic deterrence", which focuses on operational use of the defense force such as demonstrating the nation's will and its strong defense capabilities through timely and tailored military operations under normal conditions, is important."2

Japan has been changing in its security posture over the last several years. Its attempts to become a "normal" nation by assuming greater security responsibilities have been driven more by necessity than choice. While the US-Japan security alliance is key to Japan's security, the US distraction over the last few years in Afghanistan and Iraq forced Japan to re-examine its own security options. Also Japan has been assuming more security responsibilities in the international arena which became evident in the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq and its naval vessels in the Arabian Sea in support of the US military operations in Afghanistan.

Also the growing partnership between the US and China has cast doubts in Tokyo about the credibility of the US-Japan alliance. Given such apprehensions, Japan has been developing new partnerships and strengthening old ones. The newer and enhanced role of the Self Defence Forces (SDFs) appears to have domestic support; a recent public survey showed a 91.7% approval for the SDFs. Thus, there is a high likelihood of a more "normal" and muscular Japan emerging in the coming years.

1. "Dynamic Defense Force" was first referred to in the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines, with "response to large-scale disasters and various other situations" as one of the key roles assigned for this force. Maritime security and protection of the sea lanes are also highlighted as important roles.

2. Additionally, the paper said, "warning times of contingencies is shortening due to exponential advances in military technology. Thus, in order to respond speedily and seamlessly to a contingency, comprehensive operational performance such as readiness is increasingly important."