WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday declined to rule out the idea of deploying nuclear weapons in space, saying the current ban on their use is “in the interest of every nation” but the issue should be decided on “the principle that peace comes through strength.”
“What we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America and that’s the president’s determination here,” Pence said in an interview with The Washington Post, when asked if nuclear weapons should be banned from orbit.Pence added, “What we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength.”
The new positioning comes as the Trump administration moves to potentially exit a major nuclear weapons pact with Russia and possibly bolster U.S. military operations in the heavens by forming a “Space Force.”
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlawed weapons of mass destruction from space, including nuclear weapons, and stopped the arms race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union from entering space.
Pence said the 1967 treaty “does ban weapons of mass destruction in space, but it doesn’t ban military activity. It actually is – it gives nations a fair amount of flexibility in operating for their security interests in space. And at this time, we don’t see any need to amend the treaty.”
Pence’s remarks on Tuesday came during a “Transformers: Space” policy summit hosted by The Post at its Washington headquarters, where he provided an outline of the Trump administration’s plans for space in the coming year. Pence announced in August that the administration hopes to establish Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military as soon as 2020, the first since the Air Force was formed after World War II.
Later Tuesday, the National Space Council, convened by the White House and chaired by the vice president, met at the National Defense University. It will send a series of recommendations to Trump about creating a U.S. Space Command that would oversee space activities.
Space Force, however, could meet resistance on Capitol Hill, where some conservative Republicans are reluctant to back a sweeping new federal program. The Air Force has estimated that Space Force could cost $3 billion in its first year and would likely need $13 billion in its first five years. Some military leaders have criticized the proposal as too expensive and cumbersome.
Speaking at The Post event, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said that many members of Congress are have a “wait and see” view of Space Force.
On the GOP reluctance for more federal spending, Pence said, “I would just ask my old colleagues in the Congress, ‘What price, freedom?'”
Pence argued that Space Force is critical for U.S. national security as China and Russia expand their footprints in space and “ensuring that America remains as dominant in space militarily as we are here on Earth.” Pence also said Space Force would be needed to provide security for civilian missions to put “American boots back on the Moon” and eventually “seeing Americans land on Mars.”
“In 2015, China essentially stood up its own space force. Russia, in the very same year, assigned a part of its aerospace division to a space force,” Pence said. “What President Trump has initiated here, in a very real sense, while America continues to lead in technology and in innovation and in military strength, in terms of organizational structure, this is what our competitors are already doing.”
Full article: Pence leaves open the possibility of nuclear weapons in space (SFGate)