Beijing Shatters Washington’s Space Supremacy


2-2-07, 8:59 am

China’s anti-satellite weapon test is a direct response to Bush’s space militarization doctrine adopted last summer.

Washington announced China’s anti-satellite weapon test, which Beijing had neither confirmed nor denied at that time, on 19 January, causing the spectre of 'star wars' to resurface. The announcement revived fears of a new arms race that Washington took to a new level last summer.

In choosing to use one of its missiles to bring down one of its old satellites, Beijing is sending a clear message to US power in space. It is 'a quite predictable consequence of United States activities in space over the last 20 years,' said Siemon Wezeman, a Dutch armaments expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). China has known for some time that US spy, surveillance or infrared observation satellites are hovering permanently over its territory. This medium range ballistic missile striking a satellite 800 km away signifies that the Chinese have the means to not only neutralize spy satellites but also the anti-missile systems controlled from space that the US intends to deploy over Asia.

It is also a response to the new space policy president Bush adopted last August. 'Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power' reaffirms Bush’s directive by which Washington 'rejects any limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in space.' Accepting possible arms control treaties which would extend their authority in orbit is out of the question in spite of Russian and Chinese pleas.

Offering the protection of its space capabilities to its 'friends and allies,' Washington reserves the right to remove its 'adversaries' from space by force if necessary. Star wars is no longer a utopia: 'The Secretary of Defense should develop capabilities, plans, and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries' the directive states.

And the target of this strategy? China. A menace that Donald Rumsfeld had previously called to mind as he was calling for better protection of US space assets to avoid a possible 'Space Pearl Harbor.' Up to that point the United States, secure in its supremacy, refused to conclude a veritable international space demilitarization treaty.

Will the Chinese test make the White House revisit its decision, as some experts say? Last December, the Chinese state information office underscored in its white paper its intention to secure the means to protect the Peoples’ Republic’s sovereignty and 'also its security in space.' Means which require enormous investments and would likely trap China in a new arms race, as was the case for the USSR without global collective security gaining from it at any time.

From l'Humanite Translated by John O’Neil