43. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Meeting1


  • Anti-satellite Treaty


  • State
  • Warren Christopher Deputy Secretary
  • Les Gelb Assistant Secretary for Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense
  • Charles Duncan Deputy Secretary
  • Gerald Dinneen Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
  • Walter Slocombe Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
  • ACDA
  • Spurgeon Keeny Deputy Director
  • James Timbie Chief, Strategic Affairs Division
  • Robert Buchheim Head, ASAT Delegation
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • LGen William Smith
  • MGen David Bradburn (Ret.) Member, ASAT Delegation
  • White House
  • David Aaron (Chairman)
  • NASA
  • Robert Frosch Administrator
  • David Williamson Assistant for Special Projects
  • NSC
  • Victor Utgoff
  • Robert Rosenberg
  • Reginald Bartholomew
  • Charles Stebbins
  • OMB
  • Al Burman
  • OSTP
  • Frank Press Director
  • Arthur Morrissey Senior Analyst
  • CIA
  • John Hicks Deputy Director for National Foreign Assessment
  • Evan Hineman Director, Office of Weapons Intelligence

Satellites Shared with Third Countries. During the second round of ASAT Talks,2 the US took the broad tactical position that all objects in space, regardless of their ownership or who uses them, should be protected under an Interim ASAT Agreement. The Soviets, on the other hand, took the narrow position that other countries should not gain an advantage from a bilateral agreement—that only space objects launched and used exclusively by the signatories should be protected. (S)

The SCC feels that the Soviet position is not wholly without merit: for example, it probably makes no sense to them to protect space objects of the PRC, so long as the PRC is not a signatory of the 1967 UN [Page 100] Treaty on Outer Space3 and will not be a party to the Interim ASAT Agreement (at least not initially). But the Soviet position is severely flawed in that it would exclude from treaty protection those multinational satellites that either the US or Soviet Union share with third countries. (S)

State, OSD, ACDA, NASA and OSTP agreed that the best and simplest treaty formulation would be one that protects space objects in which either signatory has an interest, but the agreement should be worded to leave the door open for—and, in fact, encourage—multilateral participation later on. Specifically, the US should insist that:

(1) All space objects launched by the signatories are automatically protected unless the launching party specifically waives such protection. (TS)

(2) A space object that is launched by a third party is protected if a signatory claims it has an interest in the object. (TS)

(Procedures for accomplishing the above should be drafted by the Interagency Working Group. Such procedures should place the burden of challenging the ownership and use of a space object on the signatory that might want to take action against the object.) (TS)

The JCS asked for additional time to study the two-part formulation; they reported back on March 14, 1979 that they prefer the earlier US position that all objects in space, regardless of ownership or use, should be protected under the Interim Agreement. (TS)

“Illegal” Space objects. The Soviets have stated that they do not want “illegal” space objects that perform so-called “hostile acts” to be protected by an ASAT agreement (e.g., space objects that broadcast directly into a state without its permission, modify the environment, violate airspace, etc.) No such “illegal” objects have been identified by either side in the past, and the US has refused to discuss them with the Soviets in the abstract. (It is probably unwise to open this subject at all, if the real Soviet concern—and their ultimate target—is our intelligence-gathering satellites.) (TS)

The Soviets hinted at some flexibility on this issue during the second round of ASAT talks. They stated that the spectre of “illegal” space objects is not a pretext for retention of specialized ASAT systems, suggesting that the fundamental Soviet concern is to avoid any impression that elimination of such systems implies that they are willing to forego the principle of national sovereignty. Thus, all agreed that while we should continue to decline to discuss “hostile acts” carried out by “illegal” space objects, we should reaffirm in the preamble of an ASAT [Page 101] agreement each signatory’s right to defend itself as recognized in Article 51 of the UN Charter. (TS)

ASAT Test Suspension. All reaffirmed their commitment to a one-year, all-altitude, orbital interceptor test suspension as part of an Initial ASAT Agreement. (S)

Relation to SALT TWO. All agreed that being able to verify compliance with the SALT TWO agreement is not dependent on our reaching an ASAT agreement with the Soviets. However, it was recognized that such an agreement could provide additional reassurance, and therefore might complement the SALT ratification process. The chairman noted that the majority had reached agreement on the issues, and suggested that we consider finalizing an Initial ASAT Agreement with the Soviets prior to the US/Soviet SALT summit, provided we can do so without compromising our basic objectives. (TS)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 102, SCC 148, ASAT, 3/12/79. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 41.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 39.