GENEVA Russia proposed a treaty on Tuesday to ban the deployment of weapons in outer space, warning that their development could lead to a new arms race and a repeat of the Cold War.
The draft treaty, also backed by China at a U.N.-sponsored forum, would prohibit the deployment of weapons in space and the use or threat of force against satellites or other spacecraft, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"Weapons deployment in space by one state will inevitably result in a chain reaction," Lavrov said in a speech at the Geneva-based, 65-member Conference on Disarmament. "This, in turn, is fraught with a new spiral in the arms race both in space and on Earth."
Tensions between Russia and the United States have deepened in recent years over U.S. plans to revive its stalled "Star Wars" program from the 1980s with a new generation of missile defense shields.
Moscow has repeatedly denounced U.S. plans to build part of the missile shield infrastructure in former Soviet satellites in Europe.
Lavrov said the nuclear arms race had led to the Cold War, "which lasted over four decades and resulted in a gigantic waste of material and other resources at the expense of finding solutions to the problem of development".
"Is it worthwhile to repeat the history?" he said.
Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction are banned from space under a 1967 international treaty, but Washington's plans have caused concerns about non-nuclear arms in space.
China tested an anti-satellite missile a year ago and the United States has been developing weapons which can hit satellites.
In a message from Beijing, China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said existing rules on outer space needed to be tightened.
"A peaceful and tranquil outer space and prevention of an arms race serves the common interests of all countries," Yang said. "I hope the Conference on Disarmament will start subsequent discussions and reach consensus on it (the treaty) as soon as possible."
The Conference on Disarmament has failed in the last 10 years to reach the consensus needed to launch negotiations on any issue.
Canadian Ambassador Marius Grinius said agreement on space weapons would require complex technical, legal and political discussions.
U.S. officials in Geneva declined to comment on Lavrov's remarks.
(Editing by Jonathan Lynn)