94. Paper Prepared by the Department of State1 2


Following 1972 negotiations in the Legal Subcommittee which resulted in considerable movement toward agreement on the text of a Moon Treaty (and a significant improvement over the draft originally submitted by the USSR), little further progress was achieved in 1973, either in the Subcommittee or in a subsequent negotiating effort in the parent Committee. Three major US-proposed amendments remained unagreed: extension of the treaty’s scope to cover the planets and other bodies of the Solar System as well as the Moon; provision for prelaunch notification of plans for missions to those bodies; and provisions regarding possible future exploitation of natural resources of the celestial bodies covered by the treaty.

Natural resources proved the most difficult of the three major unresolved issues. Probably the most important difference in this connection was over a proposed moratorium pending establishment of an international regime governing resource exploitation when such exploitation might prove possible. Several non-aligned [Page 2] countries insisted on such a moratorium; the U.S. conversely demanded an explicit provision against it. Both sides were concerned about possible implications of a moratorium provision for international rules on resource exploitation in other environments, particularly the deep seabeds.

As regards the other major issues, the Soviets have tacitly agreed to expanded treaty scope, although differences persist over how that expansion is to be formulated. The USSR has so far maintained that it would go beyond accepting a capsule paragraph providing that references to “Moon” throughout the text are understood to apply to the other bodies covered by the treaty. We consider that this formulation would represent an unacceptable imbalance in emphasis and would lend itself to possible future proposals for further separate treaties on individual planets—an approach the Soviets have suggested on a couple of occasions they might initiate and one we would strongly oppose. Accordingly we have insisted on explicit reference to “other celestial bodies” (appropriately defined) besides the Moon throughout the treaty text.

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On the other hand, we would be prepared to drop our proposal (which the USSR continues to reject) for advance notification of missions, once all other questions were satisfactorily settled. (We have insisted that the resources issue must be resolved first).

The Soviet delegation, while mildly taxing the U.S. for obstructionism in insisting on the anti-moratorium provision, appeared at the end of the 1973 Outer Space Committee session to be downplaying the importance of the Moon Treaty to some extent. (There were indications that unless agreement came quickly at the 1974 Legal Subcommittee session, they might be considering dropping the treaty below direct broadcast satellites on their scale of outer space legal priorities.) In fact, apart from the personal involvement of a small number of officials, we do not believe that major Soviet interests are engaged in the treaty. Despite occasional allegations that “Moscow” would find it difficult to understand lack of progress toward agreement, U.S.-USSR differences in the negotiations have had no discernible effect on other cooperative arrangements in outer space affairs.

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Even if all issues were resolved in a manner satisfactory to us, we would regard the treaty as quite limited in value, although it would then represent a modest advance in the international law of outer space. We are prepared to continue negotiations in the Legal Subcommittee on that basis. On the substantive merits, however, completion of the treaty is of no urgency whatsoever and we perceive no reason not to stick to our previous position on the unresolved questions.

In the context of the upcoming session, however, we see some possible tactical advantage in engaging the Subcommittee in consideration of the Moon treaty agenda item in some depth. Moreover, that part of the text already agreed would benefit significantly from reorganization in the interest of clarity and coherence. The delegation therefore should table the attached proposal for rearrangement of articles at the outset of the session.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 59, L/OA Files, Lot 99 D 369, Box 8, Space—1974. Confidential. Drafted by Black; and cleared in L/UNA, S/P, NASA/I, USUN, IO/UNP, EUR/SOV, NASA–G, and DOD/ISA. Attached but not published is an undated proposal to reconfigure the order of articles in the draft Moon Treaty.
  2. The paper discussed issues related to the draft Moon Treaty likely to arise during negotiations at the May 1974 session of the Legal Sub-Committee of the UN Outer Space Committee.