12 January 2012
The U.S. won’t sign on to a European Union code of conduct for operations in outer space and will propose other multinational means of minimizing the risks of an arms race or damage to satellites.
“We’ve made very definitive that we’re not going to go along with the European code of conduct,” Ellen Tauscher, the undersecretary of state for arms control and nonproliferation, said today. “What we haven’t announced is what we’re going to do. But we will be doing that soon.”
Tauscher told a forum of the Defense Writers Group in Washington that the European code, proposed in 2008 and revised in 2010, is “too restrictive.” She declined to elaborate or say what the U.S. would propose as an alternative.
The drive for international standards on conduct in outer space accelerated after the Chinese military’s January 2007 destruction of a weather satellite that generated what the U.S. said was a potentially dangerous amount of debris. The Pentagon tracks about 22,000 man-made objects in orbit.
In February 2011, U.S. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and other Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concern that the administration might sign on to the European code of conduct, which they said would limit U.S. options to pursue missile defense and space-based systems.
The Obama administration said in its February 2011 National Security Space Strategy that it would cooperate with allies and partners to “seek common ground among all space-faring nations.”
“The United States will support development of data standards, best practices, transparency and confidence-building measures, and norms of behavior for responsible space operations,” the administration said in an unclassified version of the strategy document. The summary also updated how the U.S. acquires and exports satellite technology amid increasing global competition.
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