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Administration Witnesses Firm On Space Treaty, Weaponizing Issues

By | May 28, 2007

      Administration witnesses before a congressional panel remained firm in insisting that the United States has a right to defend itself and its assets in space, and in rejecting proposals to write some sort of space peace treaty.

      In turn, some Democrats criticized the administration for what they see as a bellicose tone to a National Space Policy issued last year, and for a go-it-alone attitude in matters relating to space.

      Donald A. Mahley, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for threat reductions, export controls and negotiations, said in fact there is great continuity between the Bush administration space policy paper last year and a space policy authored in the 1990s when President Clinton, a Democrat, was in the White House.

      That includes a “recognition of the importance of space and the necessity to protect our space assets,” he said. He cited China this year using a ground-based missile to destroy an aging satellite in orbit as proof that China could threaten satellites and crewed spacecraft of the United States and other nations. China thus far has given no satisfactory explanation for its anti-satellite shot, which created an immense field of dangerous space debris, Mahley noted before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform national security and foreign affairs subcommittee.

      But subcommittee Chairman John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), counseled caution, noting that the United States owns or operates 443 of the 845 active satellites in orbit, a $100 billion annual industry. The United States, he said, was the only country to vote against a United Nations resolution calling for a treaty to limit weaponization of space, while 160 nations voted for the resolution.

      Tierney alleged the administration knew beforehand of the impending Chinese ASAT test, but “apparently decided not to do anything … to try to prevent the Chinese test.”

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