U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned Iran against launching satellites into space, noting that the same technology could be used to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation."
Iran is forbidden to test ballistic missiles under the nuclear deal signed by Tehran and leading world powers in 2015. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement last May.
Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Qassem Taqizadeh told Iranian state media in November that Tehran was planning to put three launch vehicles into space in "the coming months."
Iran has denied U.S. accusations that its space program is linked to its nuclear ambitions. "Iran's launch of space vehicles — & missile tests — are NOT in violation of [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 2231," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted Thursday on Twitter. That resolution endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran nuclear deal with the world powers is formally known.
But U.S. intelligence agents have said the space launch technology can easily be converted to nuclear weapons use.