Canada joins the US in banning ASAT tests

WASHINGTON — The Canadian government announced May 9 that it will join the United States in banning destructive testing of direct-ascent antisatellite weapons as a step toward standards of responsible behavior in space.

In a tweetCanada’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva announced that Canada would comply with a non-binding ban on such ASAT tests announced by Vice President Kamala Harris on April 18. Such tests, Harris said at the time, create dangerous amounts of debris. in orbit, and called on other nations to join the United States in the ban.

“For 40 years [Canada] has advocated stopping anti-satellite testing (ASAT). Today we join the United States’ commitment to non-destructive testing of ASAT missiles. We encourage all states to come together so that together we can make this a global norm,” the Canadian government stated.

The move is largely symbolic. Canada has never developed or tested ASAT weapons and has not announced plans to do so. However, the announcement, which came at the start of a week of deliberations by a UN-authorized Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) in Geneva on standards of behavior to reduce space threats, could help build momentum for broader support for the ban.

A State Department official said last month that the United States announced the ban on ASAT tests now to “promote meaningful discussion” at the meeting, the first of four scheduled over the next two years.

“Having our own proposal in the OEWG for a standard of responsible behavior will allow the United States to demonstrate our leadership in this area and drive a conversation in a way that supports our position and does not undermine the security of the United States and its allies to the face. of what will surely be competing proposals,” Eric Desautels, acting deputy deputy of state for gun control, verification and enforcement, said in a webinar on April 21.

The Canadian government did not elaborate on its acceptance of the ASAT testing ban, but a document it submitted as part of the task force discussions outlined its opposition to ASAT testing. “Canada considers responsible behavior to be committed to not undertaking the development, testing and use of ASAT capabilities that may cause widespread debris,” the document states. “In fact, Canada supports discussions, in the context of the Conference on Disarmament, about a possible ban on the testing and use of ASATs that generate space debris.”

The lack of progress at the Conference on Disarmament for many years, including the failure to approve an agenda of discussion topics, led to efforts like this working group to develop non-binding “rules of the road” for safe space operations, which Canada he said in his white paper supported. “From Canada’s perspective, non-binding, pragmatic standards of responsible behavior should be implemented as soon as possible and, if accepted by most spacefaring nations, could become legally binding international law in the future.”

The Safe World Foundation, an organization dedicated to space sustainability, welcomed Canada’s announcement. “As the world has seen, these tests can produce hundreds or even thousands of pieces of debris, posing a threat to all operators in close orbit,” it said in a statement, calling on “other countries to make a similar commitment, helping cement this initiative into a global standard.”

Canada is the first to formally back a ban on ASAT tests. Jessica West, a senior fellow on space security at Project Plowshares who is attending the task force meeting, said on May 9 that while no other nation has formally joined the ban, several countries expressed their support at the meetingincluding France, Germany, Ireland, South Korea and the UK.

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