JEAIL > Volume 6(1); 2013 > Student Contribution
Research Paper
Published online: May 30, 2013

Trespass to Airspace: How to Deter North Korea from Its Space Ambitions?

Kelly Kuan Shang
Maastricht University Faculty of Law
P.O. Box 616, NL-6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In deterring North Korea from pursuing its space ambitions, the neighboring States may consider to advance a sovereignty argument that North Korea's overflying rockets have trespassed to their territorial airspace. The current UNSC Resolution-based arguments may not provide adequate deterrence because they are built upon a unilateral interpretation of the UNSC Resolutions and therefore lack legal persuasiveness. Currently, there is seemingly a strong international consensus favoring the demarcation line between airspace and outer space at approximately 100-120 kilometers above the sea level. As the North Korean rockets will likely overflow foreign territories when reaching to this altitude, a trespass claim should therefore have strong legal merits. Moreover, North Korea cannot raise a defense by claiming a right of innocent passage over foreign airspace, because such right does not exist as a customary international law. Even if such right exists, North Korea will be hard to rely on it because its overflying rockets are hardly 'innocent.'

Keywords: Satellite Launch, Air Sovereignty, NPT, Outer Space Treaty, Ballistic Missile, Right of Innocent Passage.

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