WASHINGTON - A number of countries are developing ways to knock out US
space systems, threatening vital national interests, the State Department's
point man on international security said on Wednesday.
Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international
security, did not name any such states but served notice Washington was taking
steps to head them off.
"We will seek the best capabilities to protect our space assets by active or
passive means," he said in elaborating for the first time publicly on a recent
Bush administration revision of US space policy, the first in nearly 10 years.
He referred to such possibilities as maneuvering out of harm's way,
redundancy, system "hardening," encryption and rapid frequency changes.
In reply to a question, he added that nothing in US policy ruled out basing
weapons in space to defend space assets.
At issue is everything from the Defense Department-run Global Positioning
System used for precision navigation and timing signals to spycraft, systems
that track missiles and commercial satellites vital for communications.
"The United States is more dependent on space than any other nation," Joseph
said. As a result, US space infrastructure could be seen as "a highly lucrative
The updated US space policy, released two months ago, rejected a push by
China, Russia and others for new arms-control pacts to keep space free of
offensive weapons. It outlined a stepped-up drive to guard space assets in light
of growing US reliance on them amid reported growing threats.
Joseph declined to comment on published reports citing Donald Kerr, director
of the US National Reconnaissance Office, as having said in September a US
satellite had been illuminated by a laser in China.
"As a matter of policy, we do not talk about specific threats or
vulnerabilities," he told a forum organized by the George C. Marshall Institute,
a public policy group.
But he said not all countries could be relied on to pursue exclusively
peaceful goals in space.
"A number of countries are exploring and acquiring capabilities to counter,
attack and defeat US space systems," he said.
"Given the vital importance of our space assets, foreclosing technical
options to defend (them) in order to forestall a hypothetical future arms race
in space, is not in the national security interest of the United States," Joseph
In reply to another question, he appeared to discount international efforts
to keep the United States from developing what could become the first known
weapons in space designed specifically to apply force.
"What normally one finds when you strip away the veil on the issue of
weaponization of space ... is a desire to constrain US options for the
development of our missile defense capabilities," he said.
"I find this quite odd because it is those missile defense capabilities that
are designed to counter offensive ballistic missiles," Joseph added.