In a speech at a US Strategic Command symposium last week, a top State Department official made the case again for various multilateral efforts to improve space security, even as China appeared to perform another test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.
Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance at the State Department, discussed space security efforts in an August 13 speech at the US Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in suburban Omaha. Much of the speech was a broad overview of national space policy in the area of space security, including now-standard references to the contested and congested nature of space.
The speech, though, came just a few weeks after China conducted what many observers believe was another ASAT test. Although Chinese officials said the test was of a missile defense system, US officials believe it was an ASAT test, an assessment Rose included in his speech. “Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” he said.
Later in the speech, Rose made the case for multilateral agreements to preserve space security, citing the International Code of Conduct originally proposed several years ago by the EU and the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) that crafted a set of transparency and confidence-building measures, or TCBMs, regarding space security. “The GGE report which was published in July of last year and was agreed to by China and Russia, endorsed voluntary, non-legally binding TCBMs to strengthen stability in space,” Rose said.
Rose did not mention another proposed treaty, offered by China and Russia, that deals with space security. In June, China and Russia introduced an updated version of their proposed Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) treaty that would ban the placement of weapons in outer space. However, as Michael Listner and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan note in an essay in The Space Review earlier this month, the updated PPWT doesn’t address many of the criticisms of the original proposal, including the fact that it doesn’t deal with ASAT weapons launched from the ground, like the direct-ascent ASATs tested by China.