The 21st-century space race is creating several concerns that can generate conflict among spacefaring states, from the collection of space trash in low Earth orbit (LEO) to questions about control of space resources. The most effective approach to resolve issues, according to South Korea’s vice foreign minister, is via an international diplomatic structure like the Artemis Accords. The vice-minister believes that as the space race becomes more intense, diplomacy will play a larger role.

In an August 12 speech at the Space Diplomacy Forum 2021, Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon said, “The rise in the number of stakeholders and the eventual results in proliferation of space operations call for a reconsideration of worldwide space governance to allow us to effectively manage possible conflicts and to encourage a safe and consistent environment for all those involved.” “Such issues cannot be met by any single country, leading us to believe that international collaboration through diplomacy will become even more important in the future.”

Countries could “easily get locked in a battle to the bottom as they hunt for competitive advantage” if there is no international cooperation, Choi warned. Unregulated space activities might result in several concerns, from space debris to legal ambiguity over subjects like space property rights, he noted. This was South Korea’s first global space diplomacy forum since signing the Artemis Accords in the month of May. The Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), a state think tank, and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-hosted the event.

Hundreds of space scientists and officials from around the world attended the meeting. President of STEPI Mun Mi-ock emphasized the necessity of global cooperation on space concerns in addressing global challenges like climate change. “We need to move away from the old model of space cooperation, which focuses on space technology trading, and instead evolve it in a way that strengthens multilateral cooperation from the standpoint of space diplomacy,” Mun added.

South Korea’s involvement in the Artemis Accords, according to David A Turner, interim director of the space affairs at the US State Department, represents America’s efforts to “encourage responsible conduct in space exploration operations beyond Earth orbit.” While the agreements are focused on government-led civil space activities beyond Earth orbit, Turner said the US is looking forward to “interacting with South Korea along with all our accord partners relating the authorization and continued supervision of our corresponding commercial space sectors in accordance with the accord principles.”

South Korea is an “excellent partner for NASA in the Artemis [Accords],” according to Neal Newman, deputy director of NASA’s Office of the International and Interagency Relations.

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