Roncevert Almond’s article “Building a Durable Legal Framework in Space: The Extraterrestrial Impact of the South China Sea Dispute” was recently featured in the Yale Journal of International Law. Mr. Almond, a Partner and Vice-President at The Wicks Group (TWG), argued that “recent experience in the South China Sea disputes may be instructive in anticipating the challenges” related to expansion into space. He went on to say that the dispute over the South China Sea provides “key lessons about domains beyond national boundaries-lessons that are directly applicable to outer space.”
Based on the example of the South China Sea disputes, Mr. Almond predicted “increased proprietary claims, facilitated by technological advancement.” Pointing to the lack of “sparse, dated and increasingly contested” terms of the Outer Space Treaty, Mr. Almond put forth that the “indeterminate guidelines of the Outer Space Treaty will likely prove insufficient to address evolving propriety claims driven by emerging ‘new space’ technology.” He forecast that “freedoms of exploration and use will encroach upon legal norms designed to preserve outer space as a global commons, such as the prohibition on national appropriation.”
Building on this idea, Mr. Almond also predicted “novel legal claims” resulting from the uncertainty surrounding interpretations of the existing Outer Space Treaty. As evidence he offered the 2015 Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act, which allows for private extraction of celestial resources. This act makes use of a “perceived loophole in the Outer Space Treaty’s ban on national appropriation.” However, Mr. Almond doubted that legal schemes such as the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act would “reflect the ultimate political consensus on exploitation of space resources.”
In his conclusion, Mr. Almond focused on the prospect of “peaceful dispute resolution” when it came to conflicts involving the shared domain of space. He offered that “formal dispute resolution mechanisms are important in order to institutionalize conflicts involving shared domains” but cautioned that “peaceful resolution of disputes beyond national boundaries is unlikely without political will. Using the example of China’s actions in the South China Sea, Mr. Almond opined that “formal dispute resolution mechanisms and legal norms of restraint may prove powerless when great powers resort to unilateral action in pursuit of their own national interest. He closed by reiterating that “political will is the critical ingredient” to “building a durable international legal consensus to govern rapid developments in space.”
Additionally, Mr. Almond presented this paper at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, as part of a Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space.
TWG has broad experience in the realms of international and space law. For more information about TWG’s international and space law services, please contact Roncevert Almond at email@example.com or 202-457-7790.