State Dept alarmed about ‘abnormal behavior’ by Russian satellite

Department of DefenseA U.S. Air Force depiction of a space intercept

A USA official contended the Russian satellite orbiting the earth was acting suspiciously, labelling its recent launch as "a very troubling development".

Russian Federation has described the satellite in question as a "space apparatus inspector", Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance at the U.S. State Department, said at a conference on disarmament in Geneva yesterday (Aug. 14).

The comments, made at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, come only days after the United States reiterated its intentions to create a military "Space Force" by 2020, in order to "meet emerging threats on this new battlefield", although notable figures in the American space community have criticised the plan as a "dumb idea".

The official was speaking of the U.S.'s "serious concerns" about Russian efforts to place weapons in space, such anti-satellite devices that could target USA satellites, ABC News said.

Dr Poblete maintained the satellite, launched in October 2017, was particularly concerning, given Russia's repeated public statements about its desire to develop defence capabilities in space.

One senior Russian diplomat told Reuters that the claims are "the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on".

"We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behaviour by a declared "space apparatus inspector".

While Poblete only went after Russian Federation on Tuesday, Pence during his speech pointed not only to Russia's development of that mobile laser system, but also to China's successful demonstration of how a missile can track and destroy satellites.

A Russian Soyuz 2.1A rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites lifts off from the launch pad at the new Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk, in the far eastern Amur region, Russia on April 28, 2016.

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She said that Russia's proposals for a treaty described by Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, as securing the "prevention of an arms race in outer space", were not to be taken seriously.

She also said it would be very hard to prove that any event causing interference in space was an intentional, hostile action by a specific nation state.

He said: "We are seeing that the American side is raising their serious concerns about Russia, so you would think they ought to be the first to support the Russian initiative". "They should be active in working to develop a treaty that would 100 percent satisfy the security interests of the American people", he said.

China's disarmament ambassador Fu Cong called for substantive discussions on outer space, leading to negotiations. But because "we have no means of differentiating many objects' behaviors from that of a weapon", Poblete said, "Outer space arms control is unverifiable". In a speech at the Pentagon timed with the release of the report last week, Vice President Mike Pence cautioned that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have been working on anti-satellite weapons for years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks after his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, in July.

"The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation", Pence said. "Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge American supremacy in space as never before".

The row about the mystery satellite came after Trump last week unveiled his much-vaunted Space Force, a new "sixth branch" of the armed forces, due to be ready by 2020.

He called on the U.S. to contribute to a Russian-Chinese treaty that seeks to prevent an arms race in space. "We must have American dominance in space", Trump said on June 18. Poblete noted that Russian Federation may have already circumvented the treaty since there is no way to verify the nature of its recently launched space object.

Poblete raised concerns about the treaty, describing it as "a flawed document, proposed by a country that has routinely violated its global commitments".

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