The final frontier: non-proliferation in space

Computer generated image of objects in low Earth orbit (Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office)Guest post by James Acton, Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Coming just a couple of weeks after the Obama administration announced its intention to work with the European Union on developing a space code of conduct, the special session of the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference on space and missile proliferation was highly topical.

To ensure freedom of access to space – not least in the face of the increasing problem of space debris - the need for enhanced space governance is widely recognised. However, there is a debate about whether the EU’s draft of a non-binding code of conduct or a formal treaty-based approach would be preferable. Sergio Marchisio, chair of the European Centre for Space Law, discussed legal aspects of the draft code and argued that the EU should be willing to discuss the Russian and Chinese proposal for a treaty in spite of its significant definitional problems. Götz Neuneck, Deputy Director of the University of Hamburg’s Institute for Peace Research and Security, welcomed the draft code as an important step forward but argued that it lacked key arms-control characteristics. He urged the EU to engage emerging space powers, to include ballistic missile defence in discussions about space security, and to study joint monitoring and surveillance. An EU official, however, cautioned against overloading the draft code.

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Europe’s role in global nuclear security

by Jasper Pandza, Research Analyst, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme

The threat of terrorists using nuclear and radiological materials will be on the agenda when 54 world leaders convene at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in less than two months. Twelve EU countries and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy are set to attend. Denmark, current holder of the separate rotating EU Presidency, is one of three new countries recently invited by the Korean hosts.

European leaders accept that a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack is a real possibility, but they do not allocate quite the same priority to this threat as the US does. So what role should European nations play in strengthening global nuclear security?

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A good time to talk non-proliferation

The Atomium, BrusselsBy Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of IISS Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme

Sometimes timing can be pivotal. Iran’s controversial nuclear programme has rarely been out of the news in the past six months as we at the IISS have been organising the first EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference, which opens in Brussels later this week. But as this unprecedented assembly of experts on nuclear and other issues kicks off on 3-4 February, concern about the Iranian situation also seems to be at an all-time high – making our wonkish conference of more than usual interest.

The conference comes soon after the EU made its boldest move yet on the non-proliferation front by embargoing Iranian oil purchases, and immediately after inspectors from the IAEA visited Iran for the most senior-level talks in more than three years. The Iran issue will almost certainly be debated throughout the two-day meeting. The last session of the event, at noon on Saturday, should be a fitting climax in that it is devoted exclusively to the Iranian nuclear issue. We are likely to hear good suggestions for finding peaceful solutions.

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