Chinese still silent on recent test of space weapon
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.
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.