China space threat
China is developing space weapons that could be used against the U.S. military in a future conflict, according to a specialist on the issue.
“China could pose a major threat to United States satellites if they decide to deploy the [antisatellite weapons] which they tested early last year, although coordinating such an attack would not be easy,” said Bruce W. MacDonald, senior director of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.
“China’s got other offensive counterspace programs under way in various stages of development — lasers, microwaves, cyber and so forth,” Mr. MacDonald told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on Sept. 18, coinciding with the release of a council report on the subject.
China in January 2007 conducted a test of an anti-satellite missile that shot down a Chinese weather satellite. In February, the Pentagon used a modified missile-defense interceptor to shoot down a U.S. satellite that was in danger of falling to earth with toxic fuel.
“Both countries have strong military incentives to deploy offensive counterspace capability,” Mr. MacDonald said, noting that space is no longer a sanctuary from military conflict.
The U.S. military is highly dependent on space for its conventional military superiority. “This is a dependence that’s ripe for the PLA, the People’s Liberation Army, of China to exploit,” Mr. MacDonald said. “And the PLA certainly knows it, especially in a Taiwan context where if such forces were to be used that it might well be in that context.”
If China could knock out key U.S. satellites, “we would suffer a huge potential degradation in our conventional force capability,” he said.
China’s military, through writings, has made clear that “the PLA envisions conflict or the possibility of conflict in space, and they’re preparing for it,” Mr. MacDonald said.
Mr. MacDonald said he favors deterring China’s use of space weapons through ground-based jammers that produce reversible damage. “I believe it’s in the interest of both the U.S. and China not to conduct broad-scale counterspace warfare, even in conflict,” he said.
Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at InsidetheRing@washingtontimes.com.