The United States, which is on the verge of testing anti-satellite weapons in space for the first time, has no plans to resume negotiations with the Soviet Union to limit such weapons, administration arms officials said yesterday.
Several senators and the Union of Concerned Scientists reacted with dismay to the administration testimony, saying it will be far more difficult to keep weapons out of space once testing begins.
"If we don't get it resolved, we're going to find ourselves spending $200 billion or $300 billion a year for something that will be far more expensive than anything we've seen on the ground, and far more dangerous," said Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on arms control.
But Kenneth L. Adelman, new director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said that he does not favor negotiations, as the Soviet Union has proposed, until the administration is certain that an agreement can be policed.
"We should not rush into negotiations on these subjects unless we are ready with verifiable proposals that will enhance national security," Adelman testified in his first appearance before Foreign Relations since his stormy confirmation hearings earlier this year.
Prospects for banning anti-satellite weapons were complicated further by President Reagan's March 23 "Star Wars" speech, in which he proposed building a defense against incoming nuclear missiles. Some of the technology contemplated for such a defense, if it is possible, would be similar to satellite-killing methods.
A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists yesterday said that a treaty banning tests rather than possession of anti-satellite weapons would not be difficult to police. The report also said that such a treaty would be of greatest advantage to the United States, because it depends more than the Soviet Union on satellites for defense and communications.
Soviet weapons can now reach only low-orbiting satellites, according to Defense Department documents. Thus, they would not threaten most U.S. intelligence and communications satellites. Both countries are working on potentially more destructive ground- and space-based laser systems.
The two nations conducted fruitless negotiations on space warfare in the last years of the Carter administration. A 1981 Soviet proposal to negotiate a ban on weapons in space, which Americans complain would not preclude ground-based anti-satellite weapons, has not been answered.
"The Soviet Union has grand, sweeping proposals on arms control and disarmament that sound appealing because they're simple," Adelman said. "That kind of thing is not very helpful."
Sen. Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.) complained that no treaty will ever be negotiated if the administration insists on working out all details before going to the table.
"When we look back on this issue, 1983 will be the year when we chose a road," Tsongas said, "whether the road be negotiations or another chapter in the arms race."