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U.S. Rejects Proposed Space Weapons Ban

The Bush administration yesterday reaffirmed its opposition to a draft treaty introduced at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament that would ban the deployment of weapons in outer space, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Feb. 12).

China and Russia crafted the proposal for "prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space objects," in response to past U.S. objections that a space weapons ban is unnecessary because no space arms race presently exists.

Beijing and Moscow have long sought to ban weapons from outer space.  China highlighted the issue last year by destroying one of its own orbiting craft in a demonstration of its antisatellite capability (see GSN, Jan. 11).

"Weapons deployment in space by one state will inevitably result in a chain reaction," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who presented the treaty yesterday in Geneva.  "And this in turn is fraught with a new spiral in the arms race, both in space and on the Earth."

Lavrov said the proposed treaty would improve arms control, boost security and resolve existing ambiguities in international law.  The time has come "to start serious practical work in this field," he said.

However, the White House responded that it opposes any treaty "to prohibit or limit access to or use of space."

"Any object orbiting or transiting through space can be a weapon if that object is intentionally placed onto a collision course with another space object," White House spokesman Dana Perino stated by e-mail.  "This makes treaty verification impossible" (Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, Feb. 13).

China and Russia formulated the treaty to help offset a U.S. missile defense shield now in development, diplomats said yesterday (see related GSN story, today).

Long-term U.S. missile and satellite defense plans remains largely secret, but they have produced concerns that the United States could trigger an arms race with the two nuclear powers, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There is a link between the U.S. missile shield and the treaty.  The Russians can see that the American project is getting off the ground, and they're worried," one European diplomat said (Anne Marcovitch, Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Feb. 12).

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