The Obama administration is launching a new space arms-control initiative that critics say will lead to restrictions on U.S. military activities in space, a key U.S. strategic war-fighting advantage.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce the initiative as early as Tuesday. The plan will be built on work contained in a European Union draft code of conduct for space that the Pentagon and State Department have criticized as too restrictive.
“The United States has decided to enter into formal consultations and negotiations with the European Union and other spacefaring nations to develop an International Code of Conduct,” said an administration official familiar with the announcement.
The U.S. government has rejected space-arms talks promoted by Russia and China at the United Nations as a covert attempt to limit U.S. military space operations, but the administration official called the EU draft code an improvement.
“We believe the European Union’s draft Code of Conduct is a solid foundation for future negotiations on reaching a consensus international code,” the administration official said, noting that signing a code is not imminent and that negotiations are expected to continue throughout this year and possibly into next year.
Change of plans
The comments contradict those of Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, who told reporters last week that the U.S. had rejected a draft EU code of conduct as “too restrictive.”
A Dec. 9, 2009, State Department cable on the draft EU code said the United States “continues to have significant concerns about the widespread use of language connoting binding obligations, such as ‘shall’ and ‘will,’ in the proposed non-binding Code of Conduct.”