Valery Loshchinin, Russia's ambassador to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, recently revealed that on Feb. 12, Russia and China will present a joint draft treaty to restrict the deployment of weapons in outer space. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to address the 65-member, U.N.-affiliated forum on that day.
Neither Russian nor Chinese government representatives have publicly indicated what provisions are included in the draft treaty. Nevertheless, both governments have long been concerned by U.S. military programs in this realm. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits countries from basing weapons of mass destruction in space, but its application to space-based missile defenses involving lasers or other non-nuclear weapons remains under dispute. Russian and Chinese experts claim that the United States is seeking to acquire the means to orchestrate attacks in space against Russian and Chinese reconnaissance satellites and long-range ballistic missiles, whose trajectory passes through the upper atmosphere.
The Bush administration argues that a formal arms control treaty for outer space is both unnecessary and probably ineffective. Donald Mahley, acting U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Threat Reduction, Export Controls and Negotiations, told a Jan. 24 space policy conference in Washington that, "We see nothing in the new proposal to change the current U.S. position." Mahley reaffirmed the administration's stance that, "Additional binding arms control agreements are simply not a viable tool for enhancing the long-term space security interests of the United States or its allies."