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Outer Space: Control Of Weaponry

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 17 April 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in answering questions about the weaponisation of space (14th and 26th February 1996) they quoted only Article IV of the 1967 Space Treaty, and not Article I which states that "the exploration and use of outer space…shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind", because they hold that Article IV is not to be interpreted in the light of Article I but rather as limiting the application of Article I, thereby allowing all military activity in space which is not cited in Article IV; and whether this interpretation is now and always has been accepted by the non superpower signatories.

The terms of a treaty have to be interpreted in their context, which includes the whole of the text of the treaty. Article I is a general provision governing the exploration and use of outer space. Article IV is a more specific provision concerning (1) nuclear weapons and (2) the use of the moon and other celestial bodies exclusively for peaceful purposes. The position remains as set out in my earlier answers (Official Report), cols. WA 48 and WA 87).