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McCully’s Condemnation of Satellite Launch Sadly Predictable

8 February 2016

McCully’s Condemnation of Satellite Launch Sadly Predictable

Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s condemnation of North Korea’s launch of an earth observation satellite was predictable - he never strays far from American guidance. It was also sadly short-sighted. As a small country it is in our long-term interest to defend the norms of international law, not condone their violation. The centrepiece of international law has to be the equality of nations.

We cannot have one law for powerful countries and another for small ones. Satellites are an important, indeed essential, part of the modern scientific environment. They have been launched by a large number of countries, including South Korea. Why condemn only North Korea?

Mr McCully’s repetition of the argument that the satellite launch employed ‘ballistic missile technology’ is disingenuous. All satellites are launched by ballistic rockets, but a satellite carrier rocket is not a missile. There are distinct and important differences.

However, the same principles of the norms of international law apply to missiles. Many countries test and deploy missiles, including the United States, Russia, China, India, and South Korea. We may well think that missiles, along with strategic bombers and nuclear weapons, should be banned but this must happen on the basis of equality. All countries should be equal before the law. Condemning one country, North Korea, for doing what other countries do just because that aligns with American foreign policy takes New Zealand down a slippery slope, to our detriment.

As a small country it is vital that New Zealand upholds the principles of international law because they offer us the best, and enduring, protection in a volatile global environment.


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