US State Department expressed concern Thursday about a recent Iranian space launch, saying that the program offers a pathway to more advanced ballistic missiles.
“We have long made clear our concerns about Iran’s space launch vehicle programs, that they provide a pathway to expand its longer-range missile systems. Space launch vehicles incorporate technologies virtually identical and interchangeable to – with those used in ballistic missiles,” State Department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing.
On Wednesday, Iran announced the successful placement of its Nour 3 satellite with an imaging satellite into orbit, positioned in an orbit approximately 450 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Nour belongs to a class of Iranian military Earth-imaging CubeSats. To date, two Nour satellites have been launched from Iran's Shahrud Desert, using three-stage Qased space-launch vehicles.
The announcement came amidst escalating tensions between Iran and Western nations, as Tehran continues to expand it nuclear program, accumulating enough enriched uranium for five nuclear warheads..
When the United States and other world powers concluded the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord with Iran, a UN resolution put vague limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program, forbidding the development of weapons systems that could deliver nuclear warheads. The United States has previously accused Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution by conducting satellite launches. However, Iran argues that its space launch vehicles are not developed for that purpose.
“Iran’s continued advancement of its ballistic missile capabilities poses a serious threat to regional and international security and remains a significant nonproliferation concern,” Miller added.