The United States Department of Defense on Thursday defended India’s anti-satellite missile test capabilities, saying the country was concerned about threats it faces in space, PTI reported.

On March 27, India shot down one of its own low-orbit satellite with a ground-to-space missile, making it one of the four countries to have ASAT capabilities.

“The first lesson from the Indian ASAT is just the simple question of why did they do that,” US Strategic Command Commander General John E Hyten told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “And the answer should be, I think to all the committees looking at it, is that they did that because they are concerned about threats to their nation from space.”

When asked about the need for India to do an ASAT test and the debris it generated in space, Hyten said: “And therefore, they feel they have to have a capability to defend themselves in space.”

Hyten also called for the development of international norms on behaviour in space. “And where those norms of behaviour should begin, from my opinion, is with debris, because as the combatant commander responsible for space today, I don’t want more debris,” Hyten said.

Senator Tim Kaine asked what the rules should be and what the US should do to promote the norms. He said: “India is an ally. We’re not talking about an adversary doing something. We’re talking about them testing some capacity, but then that creates challenges for all kinds of uses of space. How should we be solving problems like that?”

Earlier this month, National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Jim Bridenstine had deplored the ASAT test, saying that the event created 60 pieces of orbital debris big enough to track. Of these, 24 pieces rise higher than the International Space Station’s orbit around Earth. Bridenstine said the United States space agency had identified over 400 pieces of debris in total.

The Pentagon had also denied reports that the US had spied on the anti-satellite missile test, but said the US was aware of India’s first test fire of the missile.