China space threat

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

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@wash­ing­ton­

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