As President Obama meets with Asian leaders this week, his conversations with Chinese president Xi Jinping will surely touch on what has become a contentious topic with deep implications in the international community - namely, the rise of Chinese expansionism into the South China Sea. This, in turn, will reverberate on the international order and ability of countries to hold each other accountable under international treaties.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ("PCA"), an intergovernmental body based in The Hague and established by treaty over a century ago to provide international dispute resolution services, has recently issued the first set of rules specifically designed to govern arbitrations relating to outer space activities. The PCA Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities (the "Optional Space Rules"), formally adopted on December 6, 2011, took three years and over a dozen leading experts in air and space law to develop. The Space Rules are based on the standard UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, but contain modifications to meet the particular needs of disputes arising out of outer space activities.