International Law Studies


Hitoshi Nasu


With the development and greater availability of counter-space capabilities, satellites are becoming a prime target of military threats. However, the legal assessment for the targeting of a satellite requires careful analysis because of its impacts on terrestrial activities and the potential to affect the rights and interests of third parties when their payloads are carried by the targeted satellite. With these two unique characteristics in mind, this article unravels the complexity of international legal regimes applicable to military operations conducted against a satellite by contrasting threshold legal considerations necessary for the identification and application of relevant legal requirements under the law governing the use of force (jus ad bellum) and those under the law governing the conduct of hostilities in situations of armed conflict (jus in bello). It finds that while its terrestrial impact is arguably relevant under the jus ad bellum and more so under the jus in bello to the legal characterization of satellite targeting and the identification of an injured or belligerent State, there is no need to afford special protection to the rights and interests of a third State that may be affected as a result of the operation.