Of­fi­cials fear a war in space by China

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Bill Gertz

China’s anti-satel­lite-in­ter­cep­tor test Jan. 11 is part of a covert spaceweapons pro­gram de­signed to crip­ple the U.S. mil­i­tary in a con­flict, de­fense of­fi­cials said on Jan. 23 as Bei­jing con­firmed it had de­stroyed one of its weather satel­lites. China said it had not “weaponized” space.

The anti-satel­lite weapon was iden­ti­fied by U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials as a non­ex­plo­sive “ki­netic kill ve­hi­cle,” which de­stroys its tar­get sim­ply by col­lid­ing with it. It was the first suc­cess in four at­tempts by China to de­stroy an or­bit­ing ob­ject in space over the past two years.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Liu Jian­chao said in Bei­jing that the gov­ern­ment briefed the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion on the test and that in­ter­na­tional fears of Chi­nese space weapons were ground­less.

“This test was not di­rected at any coun­try and does not con­sti­tute a threat to any coun­try,” Mr. Liu said. It was the first of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion of the test, which was kept se­cret in Bei­jing as well as Wash­ing­ton un­til the mag­a­zine Avi­a­tion Week re­ported it on Jan. 19.

“What needs to be stressed is that China has al­ways ad­vo­cated the peace­ful use of space, op­poses the weaponiza­tion of space and arms races in space,” Mr. Liu said at a press brief­ing.

The White House said China’s ex­pla­na­tion was not suf­fi­cient.

China’s pub­lic and private “as­sur­ances”on­thetest­werewel­come but “are in­com­plete and do not an­swer many of the ques­tions raised by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” saidGor­donJohn­droe,as­pokesman for the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Protests were raised by the gov­ern­ments of Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, In­dia, Canada and other states, which saw

the test as part of in­creas­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary power that con­trast with Bei­jing’s pub­lic as­sur­ances of be­ing en­gaged in a “peace­ful rise.”

“We are con­cerned about China’s lack of trans­parency,” Mr. John­droe said. “For ex­am­ple, China has not ex­plained the in­tent of this weapons test, nor has it stated whether or not it plans fu­ture tests.”

Mr. Liu said he was not aware of plans for an ad­di­tional test.

Mr. John­droe also said that China’s gov­ern­ment failed to ex­plain how the test “is com­pat­i­ble with its pub­lic stance against the weaponiza­tion of space,” not­ing the is­sue will be pur­sued fur­ther in diplo­matic chan­nels.

U.S. of­fi­cials familiar with intelligence re­ports said on Jan. 23 that three pre­vi­ous tests were un­suc­cess­ful. All four tests in­volved the launch of a com­mer­cial rocket booster car­ry­ing an anti-satel­lite (ASAT) war­head that would sep­a­rate from the booster in space and seek to crash into the satel­lite about 530 miles above the earth.

Some U.S. pol­icy and intelligence of­fi­cials have tried in in­ter­nal mem­o­ran­dums to play down the sig­nif­i­cance of the ASAT test, say­ing that the war­head hit a large, low-earth­or­bit satel­lite and that it would be more dif­fi­cult to hit higher-or­bit­ing and smaller sys­tems.

Other de­fense of­fi­cials, how­ever, said the test has raised alarm bells be­cause it ex­posed a key strate­gic vul­ner­a­bil­ity. They also said that there are ma­jor gaps in U.S. intelligence about which other space weapons and ca­pa­bil­i­ties China has or is de­vel­op­ing that could crip­ple or dis­able U.S. satel­lites, which han­dle about 90 per­cent of all mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions, as well as intelligence and mis­sile guid­ance.

The Jan. 11 test also alarmed mil­i­tary and de­fense of­fi­cials be­cause it un­der­mined Amer­i­can intelligence es­ti­mates that China’s mil­i­tary trails the U.S. mil­i­tary in terms of weapons and war-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties by 10 years.

“The ASAT test showed they are not fol­low­ing us [mil­i­tar­ily] but try­ing to leap ahead,” one de­fense of­fi­cial said.

U.S. intelligence agen­cies re­ceived some ad­vance in­di­ca­tions of the test, in which a com­mer­cial KT1 rocket, a ver­sion of the medi­um­range DF-21 mis­sile, was launched from the Xichang space cen­ter, in south­west­ern Sichuan prov­ince.

The ASAT weapon sep­a­rated from the last stage in space and then de­stroyed the Feng Yun-1C weather satel­lite, launched in 1999 and or­bit­ing over both poles, by ram­ming into it at high speed. U.S. of­fi­cials said de­bris from the de­stroyed satel­lite con­tin­ues to or­bit and poses a risk to some of the 800 satel­lites now in space, 400 of which are Amer­i­can.

China also il­lu­mi­nated a U.S. satel­lite­with­a­ground-bas­ed­laserin an­other anti-satel­lite test, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the con­gres­sional U.S.-China Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion.

The re­port, pro­duced by de­fense an­a­lyst Michael Pills­bury, re­vealed that China has plans for se­cret space weapons that in­clude ground-based lasers, air-to-space mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors and an ex­otic plasma bomb that would de­stroy or­bit­ing satel­lites by en­velop­ing them in an elec­tronic cloud.

The re­port also stated that three books writ­ten by Chi­nese colonels in 2001, 2002 and 2005 con­tain “pro­pos­als for covert de­ploy­ment of an­ti­satel­lite weapons di­rected at U.S. as­sets.”

One au­thor, Col. Jia Jun­ming, stated in his 2002 book that Chi­nese space-weapons­de­vel­op­mentshould be covert and “in­tense in­ter­nally but re­laxed in ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance to main­tain our good in­ter­na­tional im­age and po­si­tion.”

The 2005 book, “Joint Space War Cam­paigns,” by Col. Yuan Zelu, calls for de­ploy­ing an or­bit­ing net­work of strike weapons that “will be con­cealed and launched only in a cri­sis or emer­gency” to “bring the op­po­nent to his knees.”

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