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China Discloses Legal Position on Utilization of Space Resource

The Long March 3B carrier rocket. Credit: China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Ibadan, 8 March 2024. – China has turned in its submission to the Working Group of Legal Aspects of Space Resource Activities of the Legal Subcommittee of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). The Working group invited member states to submit their inputs towards the Group’s mandates and purposes. China’s submission emphasized the importance of the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty in directing any member-state activity regarding the lunar surface, particularly lunar resources.

The submission discloses China’s position on the non-appropriation principle of Article II of the Outer Space Treaty with regard to lunar missions, especially in light of the Artemis program and its International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program. The Chinese Delegation consequently believes that member states’ exploration, exploitation and utilization of space resources should conform to the principle of non-appropriation. as laid out by the Outer Space Treaty.

It further calls on the Working Group to formulate initial recommended principles to reaffirm the principle of non-appropriation’s applicability and to operationalize its application to the various contexts of space resource activities. In offering other suggestions towards the Working Group’s mandate to develop a set of initial recommended principles for space resource activities, the Chinese Delegation encourages the Working Group to prioritize solving urgent practical issues through discussions around ongoing or upcoming national plans for space resource activities.

Furthermore, the delegation advocates for guidance from existing international space law in developing the initial recommended principles, with a focus on its interpretation and application. China also highlights its upcoming lunar missions through the document; it plans to launch the Chang’e-6,7 and 8 lunar missions in 2024, 2026 and 2028, respectively, setting the stage for establishing the ILRS over the next decade.

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