WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States accused Russia of test-firing an anti-satellite weapon in space, warning that the threat against U.S. systems was “real, serious and increasing.”
U.S. Space Command said it “has evidence” that Moscow “conducted a nondestructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon” on July 15.
“Last week’s test is another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Thursday statement said.
“Clearly this is unacceptable,” tweeted U.S. nuclear disarmament negotiator Marshall Billingslea, adding that it would be a “major issue” discussed next week in Vienna, where he is in talks on a successor to the New START treaty.
The treaty caps the nuclear warheads of the United States and Russia.
Commenting Friday on the accusations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia supports “full demilitarization of space and not basing any type of weapons in space.”
The U.S. Space Command said the test consisted of Russia’s satellite Cosmos 2543 injecting an object into orbit.
Russian state media has said that Cosmos-2543 had been deployed by another satellite, Cosmos-2542, which was launched on Nov. 25, 2019 by the Russian military.
The defense ministry said the satellite is meant to “monitor the condition of Russian satellites,” but state daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta said it has the ability to “get information from somebody else’s satellites.”
The system is the same one that Space Command raised concerns about earlier this year, when it maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite, said Gen. Jay Raymond, head of U.S. Space Command.
“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” Raymond said in a statement.
It is the latest example of Russian satellites behaving in a manner “inconsistent with their stated mission,” the Space Command statement said.
“This event highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control,” said Christopher Ford, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control.
The statement came as China launched a rover to Mars on Thursday, a journey coinciding with a similar U.S. mission as the powers take their rivalry into deep space.
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