Chi­nese still silent on re­cent test of space weapon

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Bill Gertz

China’s de­fense min­is­ter re­fused to dis­cuss the re­cent test of a new anti-satel­lite weapon, high­light­ing U.S. con­cerns about ex­ces­sive mil­i­tary se­crecy, De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said Nov. 5.

“With re­spect to the anti-satel­lite test, I raised our con­cerns about it, and there was no fur­ther dis­cus­sion,” Mr. Gates told re­porters in Bei­jing af­ter meet­ing with De­fense Min­is­ter Cao Gangchuan.

The de­fense chiefs also dis­cussed U.S. con­cerns about the lack of “trans­parency” on China’s mil­i­tary buildup, joint ef­forts to dis­suade Iran from build­ing nu­clear arms, and plans for a com­mu­ni­ca­tions hot line link­ing the Pen­tagon to China’s mil­i­tary.

Mr. Gates spoke to re­porters at the start of a week­long visit to Asia. Af­ter leav­ing China, he was to travel to Ja­pan and South Korea. The Pen­tagon re­leased a tran­script of the con­fer­ence.

“I raised with Min­is­ter Cao the un­cer­tainty over China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion and the need for greater trans­parency to al­lay in­ter­na­tional con­cerns,” he said.

The Bei­jing talks sought to “im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions and re­duce the risk of mis­un­der­stand­ing,” Mr. Gates said.

The de­fense sec­re­tary met later with Gen. Guo Box­iong and Gen. Xu Cai­hou, vice chair­men of the Com­mu­nist Party’s pow­er­ful Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, the or­gan that ul­ti­mately con­trols mil­i­tary forces.

The Jan­uary anti-satel­lite test in­volved a mo­bile, ground-based mis­sile fired into space that shat­tered a weather satel­lite in low earth or­bit. It was China’s first suc­cess­ful test of a satel­lite-killing sys­tem.

De­fense of­fi­cials said the test prompted new fears that the U.S. mil­i­tary could be crip­pled elec­tron­i­cally in any con­flict by China’s de­struc­tion of 40 to 50 key com­mu­ni­ca­tions and intelligence satel­lites.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy com­man­der of the Honolulu-based U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, said two weeks ago that the Chi­nese test was not only “in­con­sis­tent” with Chi­nese state­ments “about peace­ful rise, but it’s also dan­ger­ous not just to mil­i­tary but to com­mer­cial space ca­pa­bil­i­ties that are on or­bit to­day.”

“It was an ex­traor­di­nar­ily bad choice,” Gen. Leaf said. “To launch it and to put that de­bris field in lowearth or­bit de­fies any logic I can think of.”

On Iran, Mr. Gates said he and Gen. Cao dis­cussed “the im­por­tance of Iran not hav­ing nu­clear weapons and of there not be­ing a pro­lif­er­a­tion prob­lem with re­spect to Iran.”

Iran’s lead­ers need to “change their be­hav­ior and their poli­cies peace­fully, through diplo­matic means,” Mr. Gates said, not­ing that he stressed the im­por­tance of us­ing “in­creased eco­nomic pres­sure” to per­suade Tehran to “make dif­fer­ent choices.”

China, along with Rus­sia, is block­ing U.S.-led ef­forts at the United Na­tions to im­pose tougher sanc­tions on Iran for its re­fusal to halt a ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram that U.S. of­fi­cials say is part of covert nu­clear arms am­bi­tions.

Getty Images

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates met with China’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship in Bei­jing over U.S. con­cerns about anti-satel­lite weapons tests and China’s mil­i­tary buildup.

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