UK, South Korea join ASAT test ban, raising like-minded countries to seven

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SEOUL, South Korea – The United Kingdom and South Korea have pledged not to conduct direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, throwing their weight behind the U.S.-driven initiative launched in April to promote peaceful and safe use of outer space.

This came about three weeks after Japan and Germany joined the initiative, raising the number of like-minded countries to seven. Canada joined the initiative in May and New Zealand in July. And more countries are expected to join as the U.S. ramps up efforts to promote the ban.

“The Republic of Korea commits not to conduct destructive direct ascent anti-satellite missile testing, following the U.S. announcement in April,” said Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s permanent representative to the United Nations, in an Oct. 4 speech at the U.N. First Committee’s third plenary meeting, which was livestreamed via UN Web TV. “We call on other states to join the relay of this commitment.” He said deliberate destruction of space objects creates long-lived space debris, hampering peaceful use of space. “In this vein,” he said, South Korea “welcomes the ongoing OEWG [open-ended working group] process as an important opportunity to find the common ground on identifying responsible behaviors to reduce space threats.”

The U.K. government announced its decision in an Oct. 3 statement jointly issued by the foreign ministry and the UK Space Agency.

“The UK has today, 3 October, announced that it commits not to destructively test direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missiles, as part of the UK’s enduring efforts to promote responsible space behaviours,” the statement reads. “Given our increasing security and socio-economic reliance on space, we believe that destructive testing of direct ascent anti-satellite missiles can be conclusively regarded as irresponsible.”

The UK has played an important role at the United Nations’ open-ended working group on reducing space threats. The working group itself was established by a U.K.-sponsored resolution in December last year. The working group had its second session in September and will conclude its work in August 2023.