March 8, 2009

HMM: N. Korea warns intercepting ‘satellite’ will prompt counterstrike. We had an interesting discussion in my space law class last week about the legality of shooting down a North Korean satellite. If it’s really a satellite, and not a warhead, shooting it down is probably a violation of the Outer Space Treaty, which provides that “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.” Note that there’s no limitation as to parties — the statement is universal. Of course, such considerations are unlikely to be determinative. Still, it’s an interesting question as to what degree of reasonable suspicion is required to justify a shootdown as self-defense.

Some technical background here.

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