US space policy targets rivals

“United States national security is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow,” the strategic document says.

“The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; … and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests,” it says.

“Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”

The statement also rejects any treaties forbidding space weapons: “The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space.”

But the new policy has raised some eyebrows, “While this policy does not explicitly say we are not going to shoot satellites or we are going to put weapons in space, it does, it seems to me, open the door toward that,” Theresa Hitchens, director of the Centre for Defence Information.

Ms Hitchens says that the new policy also represents a significant shift from its 10-year-old predecessor initiated under then-president Bill Clinton.

“This is a much more unilateralist vision of space. The United States in this policy seeks to establish its rights but fails to acknowledge the rights of other countries in space, where the Clinton policy was very careful to acknowledge the rights of all nations in space,” she said.

The United States currently enjoys supremacy in space, while Russia has lost most of its means and China is still in the development phase.

Mr Bush authorized the policy on August 31 and the document, which replaces a 1996 space policy, was published quietly by the White House on October 6.