France should invest more in surveillance of space, minister says

FILE PHOTO: French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly (R) and French President personal chief of military staff, admiral Bernard Rogel (L) attend a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the mid ranking Air Force officers' school, "Ecole de formation des sous-officiers de l’armee de l’air (EFSOAA)", at the French Air Force base 721 Rochefort in Saint-Agnant, France, June 14, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - France should invest more in surveillance of outer space to ensure it never becomes an arena for future wars, the country’s defense minister said on Thursday.

Days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was ordering the creation of a sixth branch of the U.S. military to focus on space, Florence Parly said France, a nuclear power, believed space could become the site of future conflicts.

“We must be able to invest more in space than we do today so that we can monitor it and prevent it from becoming a theater for major confrontations,” Parly told France 2 television.

Trump’s comments have raised concern of an arms race in space, although the United States is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The accord bars stationing weapons of mass destruction in space and restricts the use of the moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes.

The idea of a Space Force has been raised before, by Trump and previous administrations, with proponents saying it would make the Pentagon more efficient.

Parliament is currently debating France’s 2019-2025 military planning law, which states that “space is of prime strategic interest”.

“In the face of increasing risks and threats, the continued strengthening of new space assets and the systems using them is needed,” the draft legislation states.

Reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Larry King