Tuesday, February 19, 2008

China, Russia warn US over unipolar hegemony

Missile-Ready China Warns US Against Satellite Shoot

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GlobalSecurity.org space security specialist Charles Vick has worked up a drawing.

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Missile-ready China warns U.S. against plan to destroy spy satellite

International Herald Tribune

By David Lague

February 18, 2008



In response to a U.S. plan to shoot down a malfunctioning spy satellite, China has warned against threats to security in outer space, without mentioning its own successful anti-satellite missile test last year.

The Chinese government also stopped short of linking the planned U.S. strike with Beijing's repeated calls for a complete ban on space weapons.

Security analysts have suggested that Beijing could use the planned U.S. interception to justify the Chinese military's unannounced destruction of a defunct weather satellite in January 2007.

That interception drew criticism from senior U.S. military officials, who complained that it had left a cloud of debris that was dangerous to other space traffic. Chinese experts in turn have questioned the Pentagon's explanation that it wanted to down the spy satellite to avoid contamination from hazardous fuel on board.

"In my opinion, this decision is imprudent and ill advised," said Li Bin, an arms control specialist at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "If this satellite is shot down, the toxic fuel will still be there. Therefore, the pollution still exists."

But, Li said, destroying the satellite would be an effective way to prevent sensitive technology from falling into the wrong hands.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said the Chinese government was highly concerned about the U.S. plan, Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported late Sunday, noting that the target satellite was loaded with toxic fuel.

Liu also urged Washington to fulfill its international obligations and avoid threatening security in space and the security of other countries, Xinhua quoted him as saying, without elaborating.

"Relevant departments of China are closely watching the situation and working out preventative measures," Liu said.

Just days after China and Russia renewed their call for a global ban on space weapons at a disarmament conference, the United States announced late last week that it was preparing to fire a missile at the crippled reconnaissance satellite during one of its passes over the Pacific by the middle of next week.

The United States opposes treaties or other measures to restrict space weapons.

In what will be a challenging test of the antiballistic missile technology that the United States and some of its allies are developing, the interceptor will be fired from an U.S. warship just before the satellite is expected to plunge uncontrollably back to earth.

The Pentagon said President George W. Bush had ordered the mission to prevent possible contamination of inhabited areas.

It said the interception was not a weapons test or a demonstration for potential adversaries.

Russia denounced the planned downing of the satellite on Saturday, saying it could be a subterfuge to test a space weapon.

China's warning about the threat to security in space comes after a period of friction in the sometimes troubled military relationship that it has with the United States.

In November, Beijing unexpectedly denied permission for the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and other U.S. warships to visit Hong Kong, setting off a diplomatic dispute.

Ship visits have resumed, but underlying tensions, particularly over Taiwan, mean the relationship is prone to further disagreements.

China, which claims sovereignty over the self-governing island, has not ruled out the use of force if Taiwan moves toward formal independence. Washington has become concerned in recent years about Beijing's rapid military buildup in the area, which appears to be aimed at gaining superiority over the island's defenses and deterring U.S. intervention in any conflict.

There are now fears that the U.S.-Chinese rivalry could spill over into an arms race in space, with both sides capable of destroying satellites.

The United States shot down a satellite with a missile fired from a fighter aircraft in a 1985 test.

For the Chinese military, the capacity to destroy U.S. navigation and communications satellites could undermine the overwhelming technological dominance that U.S. forces have enjoyed in recent conflicts, according to U.S. and Chinese security experts.

They say that space weapons including antimissile satellites could contribute to Beijing's "area denial" strategies, which are intended to keep U.S. forces at bay in a war over Taiwan.

In academic papers, books and magazine articles, Chinese strategic thinkers have identified U.S. dependence on satellites for battlefield communications, guiding smart weapons, reconnaissance and weather forecasting as a potential weakness that could be exploited.

Senior U.S. military commanders have acknowledged that without the advantage of satellites, U.S. forces could be forced to fight as they did decades ago, without detailed information about the battlefield and enemy movements.

The successful destruction of the ailing U.S. spy satellite would send a reminder to Beijing that China's space assets would also be at risk in a conflict, experts said.

But China is also increasingly vulnerable to this kind of warfare as it deploys high-technology weaponry. China has been devoting considerable resources to building and deploying its own communication, navigation and weather satellites in recent years.

Some analysts have suggested that Beijing ultimately wants to deploy an independent navigation satellite constellation with similar capabilities as the Global Positioning System network.

Yuan Xi contributed reporting.

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1 comment:

SUN said...