Canada joins US in ASAT test ban
WASHINGTON — The Canadian government announced May 9 that it is joining the United States in banning the testing of destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons as a step toward standards for responsible behavior in space.
In a tweetCanada’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva has announced that Canada will abide by the non-binding ban on such ASAT testing announced by Vice President Kamala Harris on April 18. Such tests, Harris said at the time, create dangerous amounts of debris in orbit, and she called on other nations to join the United States in the ban.
“For 40 years [Canada] advocated for the cessation of anti-satellite testing (ASAT). Today we have joined the United States’ pledge not to test destructive ASAT missiles. We encourage all states to join so that together we can make this a global standard,” the Canadian government said.
The move is largely symbolic. Canada has never developed or tested ASAT weapons and has not announced any plans to do so. However, the announcement, which comes at the start of a week of deliberations by an open-ended working group (OEWG) in Geneva on standards of behavior to reduce threats from space, could help build momentum for a wider support for the ban.
A State Department official said last month that the United States had announced the ASAT testing ban now to “stimulate meaningful discussion” at the meeting, the first of four scheduled over the next two years.
“Having our own proposal to the OEWG for a standard of responsible behavior will allow the United States to demonstrate leadership in this area and conduct a conversation in a way that supports our position and does not undermine American security. and ally in the face of what will surely be competing proposals,” said Eric Desautels, acting assistant deputy state for arms control, verification and compliance, during an April 21 webinar.
The Canadian government did not specify its acceptance of the ASAT test ban, but a document he tabled as part of the working group’s discussions emphasized his opposition to ASAT testing. “Canada considers responsible behavior to be a commitment not to undertake development, testing and use of ASAT capabilities that may cause large-scale debris,” the document states. “Indeed, Canada supports discussions at the Conference on Disarmament on a possible ban on the testing and use of ASATs that cause space debris.”
The lack of progress at the Conference on Disarmament for many years, including the lack of approval of an agenda of topics for discussion, has led to efforts like this working group to develop “rules of conduct non-binding for safe space operations, which Canada stated in its white paper, he supported. “From Canada’s perspective, pragmatic, non-binding standards of responsible behavior should be applied as soon as possible which, if accepted by a majority of space nations, could become legally binding international law in the future.
The Secure 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, which pose a threat to all operators in near orbits,” he said in a statement, asking “other countries to adopt a similar commitment, helping to cement this initiative into a global standard.
Canada is the first to officially support a ban on ASAT testing. Jessica West, senior space security researcher at Project Plowshares who is attending the task force meeting, said May 9 that while no other countries have officially signed on to the ban, several countries expressed their support during the meetingincluding France, Germany, Ireland, South Korea and the United Kingdom.