June 16th, 2006 16:58 EST
U.S. Remains Committed to Peaceful Uses of Space, Official Says By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington -- The United States does not have any weapons in space, a State Department arms control official says, nor does it have plans to build any.
John Mohanco told members of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva June 13 that the United States steadfastly is committed to the exploration and use of space “by all nations for peaceful purposes.”
Mohanco, who is deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs, defined peaceful purposes as including “appropriate defense activities in pursuit of national security and other goals.”
He said parties to the treaty “have demonstrated that the peaceful use of space is completely consistent with military activity in space.” Threats to the peaceful use of space, the oceans or the atmosphere “come not from the existence of military hardware,” Mohanco said, “but from those who would disturb the peace no matter [what] the environment.”
The necessity of using space to support commercial and military operations has led the United States to study the potential of space-related weapons to protect its space-based remote sensing or communications satellites from potential future surface-generated or space-based attacks, he said.
As long as the possibility exists that spacecraft, space stations or satellites could be attacked, Mohanco said the U.S. government “will consider the possible role that space-related weapons may play in protecting our assets.”
Representing the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, he said there is neither an arms race taking place in outer space, nor any “problem in outer space for arms control to solve.”
UNPRECEDENTED INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN SPACE
Mohanco pointed to unprecedented international cooperation that is under way, also among former Cold War adversaries, in the fields of civil and commercial space activities.
“We take seriously our commitment to carry on all U.S. activities in the exploration and use of outer space in accordance with international law,” he said, “including the  Outer Space Treaty.” The United States was “one of the principal movers behind” the treaty, the official added.
After hearing discussions at the conference on the subject of preventing an arms race in space, Mohanco said the U.S. delegates are convinced there is no consensus within the organization on issues related “to the supposed weaponization of space.”
“Many proponents of a ban on space weaponry argue that, unless such weapons are banned soon, some government – usually identified, scurrilously, as the United States -- somehow will begin an arms race in outer space,” he said. “History demonstrates, however,” Mohanco said, “that this is hardly a reasonable speculation.”
Meanwhile, he said, the U.S. delegation examined the confidence-building and transparency measures offered recently by China and Russia. “There is nothing inherently wrong with exploring new confidence-building measures,” Mohanco said, “but the [Conference on Disarmament] is not the appropriate venue for such discussions.”
He went on to say that as the space community’s practices evolve, discussions on how to manage them are appropriate. “Such discussions, however, do not constitute [a] valid reason for proposing new arms control measures for outer space,” the official added.
While some individuals argue that the existing treaty is inadequate because “it only addresses stationing weapons of mass destruction in space, and not weapons of any type,” Mohanco said it is impossible to define a workable ban on anti-satellite weapons or other space-related weapon systems.
While proponents of attaching additional measures to the Outer Space Treaty try to suggest that identifying a weapon in outer space is easy, the officials said this is not the case. The dual-use potential of any space object, he said, “is a basic barrier to any attempt even to discuss bans on space weapons in any meaningful way.”
Mohanco also called on conference members to reach agreement on the U.S.-submitted draft mandate to start negotiations to achieve a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. (See related article.)
The full text of Mohanco’s statement is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
For more information about U.S. policy, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)