Agence France-Presse – 2008-02-14 22:37:12
(February 12, 2008) — Russia and China have proposed a new treaty to ban the use of weapons in space, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday, amid concerns of growing anti-satellite missile rivalry.
“Without preventing an arms race in space, international security will be wanting,” Lavrov told a conference on disarmament in Geneva.
“The task of preventing an arms race in space is on the conference’s agenda. It’s time… to start serious practical work in this field,” he said. The new treaty would prohibit the deployment of weapons of any kind in space, and the use or threat of force against space objects, he added.
Concerns over a new arms race in space have been growing since China tested an anti-satellite missile in January last year, sparking diplomatic concern. The United States also has its own anti-satellite programme ranging from laser cannon to satellite destroying missiles.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans the build up or stockage of military weapons— including nuclear arms or weapons of mass destruction — in orbit and their installation on the moon, but not the shooting down of satellites.
“Weapons deployment in space by one state will inevitably result in a chain reaction. And this, in turn, is fraught with a new spiral in the arms race both in space and on the earth,” Lavrov said.
The United States has had no declared anti-satellite program since 1985 when it destroyed one of its own satellites in space with a missile launched by a fighter jet.
However, the US Missile Defense Agency asked last year for 10 million dollars to study the feasibility of a “test bed” to develop space-based missile defences.
The US military has been preoccupied by the vulnerability of its satellite networks since 2001 when a commission led by then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned of the danger of a space “Pearl Harbor”.
Washington’s plans for satellite and missile defence remain shrouded in secrecy but have sparked fears of an arms race with both Russia and China.
The Russian minister also reiterated his criticisms of US plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe.
“We cannot but feel concerned over the situation where … there are increasing efforts by the United States to deploy its global ABM (anti-ballistic missile) system,” Lavrov said. “The desire to acquire an anti-missile ‘shield’ while dismantling the ‘sheath’, where the nuclear ‘sword’ is kept is extremely dangerous,” he added.
Washington is currently negotiating with Warsaw and Prague on the possible installation of 10 interceptor missile sites in Poland by 2012 and associated radar stations in the Czech Republic.
The US says the sites are needed as part of a gradually-developing shield to ward off potential attacks by what it calls “rogue states,” notably Iran.
But Russia warned that an encroaching US military presence in what it considered its strategic backyard in Soviet times risked ratcheting up tensions.
“Russia’s security should be ensured by a more just and genuinely democratic architecture of international relations,” Lavrov said.
“Unfortunately, the world that shook off the ‘Cold War’, has so far failed to attain a new equilibrium. The conflict potential, including in the areas close to the Russian frontiers, is very high,” he warned.
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