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Eric Desautels: US Intends to Prevent Interference With C2 Systems of National Security Satellites

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Eric Desautels, acting deputy assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance at the State Department, said the U.S. government intends to introduce a proposal that would prohibit “purposeful interference” with command-and-control systems of national security satellites in addition to a ban on anti-satellite weapon tests, Breaking Defense reported Friday.

On April 18, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the U.S. committed not to carry out destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests as part of efforts to establish international rules and norms for the responsible and sustainable use of space.

“We recognize our ASAT commitment doesn’t cover all ASAT threats, including space-based ASAT systems. But we think it is important to take a first step to address the most pressing threats,” Desautels said during a webinar.

A United Nations group, dubbed Open Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats Through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviours, is set to conduct a series of discussions beginning on May 9 in Geneva and Desautels said the Biden administration would want OEWG to include in the discussions additional ideas.

These include improving communications, advancing responsible behavior to facilitate safe operations of national security satellites to prevent harmful interference and collisions and “elaborating best practices of responsible behavior that avoid simulating or testing a set weapons in the direction of or in close proximity to another state satellites.”

Desatels said the UN working group should help ensure that norms and principles agreed upon do not “restrict the peaceful uses of outer space technology by developing countries.”