Australia joins ASAT test ban, bringing like-minded countries to eight

SEOUL, South Korea — Australia has pledged not to test a direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile, throwing its weight behind US-led initiative launched in April to promote the peaceful and safe use of space.

Australia’s pledge comes about three weeks after the United Kingdom and South Korea joined the initiative, bringing the number of like-minded countries to eight. Japan and Germany joined the campaign in mid-September, New Zealand in July and Canada in May. And more countries are expected to join as the US steps up efforts to push for a ban.

Penny Wong, Australian Foreign Minister. Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“The Australian Government is committed to never conducting destructive, direct-climb objectionsSatellite missile tests, consistent with our role as a responsible actor in space,” the country’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Defense Secretary Richard Marles and Industry and Science Minister Ed Husich said in a statement. Joint statement of 27 October. “The use of these missiles to destroy space objects is reckless, irresponsible and poses threats to the space resources of all nations.”

They called on “all nations” to join the initiative as a “transparency and confidence-building measure”.

That announcement came a day after a senior Russian diplomat repeated earlier statements in a United Nations Assembly that Russia could target private space networks that aid military operations against Russia. Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and weapons department, called the use of commercial satellites by the West “an extremely dangerous trend that … has become evident during the latest developments in Ukraine.” He noted that such assistance constitutes “indirect participation” in military conflicts, adding that “quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.” Although the diplomat did not mention Starlink by name the reasonthe SpaceX internet satellite network has served as a communications lifeline for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the three Australian ministers expressed their support for the open-ended United Nations Space Threat Reduction Working Group which is working to define rules, norms and principles for responsible behavior in space.

“The global community must work together to build a common understanding about rules and norms that can guide how states behave in space,” the foreign minister said in the statement. “This commitment to responsible behavior helps create a meaningful framework that contributes to the safety, security and sustainability of space.” The working group, established by a Resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom in December last year, had its second session in September and will conclude its work in August 2023.

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