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Thursday, December 14, 2006

US Defends Its Opposition To Ban On Weapons In Space

Washington: The United States defended Wednesday its opposition to a new ban on weapons in space, saying it needed to keep its options open amid threats from nations seeking ways to attack US space systems. Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and security, said he was unaware of plans to deploy weapons in space but that the new National Space Policy does not preclude that option in the future.

Joseph also said terrorism had emerged as a new potential threat to US space operations on the ground.

"Ensuring the freedom of space and protecting our interests in this medium are priorities for US national security and for the US economy," Joseph said in a speech here on the new US space policy made public in October.

"But not all countries can be relied upon to pursue exclusively peaceful goals in space," he said.

"A number of countries are exploring and acquiring capabilities to counter, attack, and defeat US space systems," he said, without naming the nations.

The growing threats require the United States to boost its ability to protect its space assets, he said.

"To achieve this end, the United States needs to remain at the forefront in space, technologically and operationally, as we have in the air, on land, and at sea," he said.

"Specifically, the United States must have the means to employ space assets as an integral part of its ability to manage crises, deter conflicts and, if deterrence fails, prevail in conflict," Joseph added.

While the United States sees "no value" in setting new agreements to ban weapons in space, it will continue abiding "scrupulously" to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forbids placing nuclear weapons in space, he said.

Joseph rejected arguments that the weapons ban was needed to prevent an arms race, saying there were "no signs of one emerging."

"Given the vital importance of our space assets, foreclosing technical options to defend those space assets in order to forestall a hypothetical future arms race in space, is not in the national security interest of the United States," he said.

While the US space policy does not direct the development or deployment of weapons in space, it does not close that option, Joseph said after the speech.

"There are no programs that I'm aware of in terms of development and deployment for those types of capabilities," he said in response to a question.

"But the policy itself, while calling for a full range of capabilities to protect our interests and to deny others the use of space for hostile purposes, does not preclude us from moving in that direction at some point in the future," Joseph said.
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