So why did China blow up one of their satellites last week? The Times offers up a few possible explanations:
Having a weapon that can disable or destroy satellites is considered a component of Chinas unofficial doctrine of asymmetrical warfare. Chinas army strategists have written that the military intends to use relatively inexpensive but highly disruptive technologies to impede the better-equipped and better-trained American forces in the event of an armed conflict over Taiwan, for example…
Some analysts suggested that one possible motivation was to prod the Bush administration to negotiate a treaty to ban space weapons. Russia and China have advocated such a treaty, but President Bush rejected those calls when he authorized a policy that seeks to preserve freedom of action in space. Chinese officials have warned that an arms race could ensue if Washington did not change course.
Now, Beijing officials aren’t even admitting they destroyed the orbiter, yet. But the China Matters blog uncovers a post by a self-proclaimed Chinese soldier, who seems to reinforce the scare-’em-into-cutting-a-deal motive:
This overweening country [the USA] began to regard space as its own back yard. The national space policy it announced in 2006 nonchalantly regarded space as its private property. At the same time, when China at the United Nations proposed a special international organization to resolve the actual problems of a space arms race that were being faced, the United States, acting as a country far in the lead in space, vehemently opposed, saying that there was no arms race in space…
We hope… [this] will smack the American carnivores back to reason. History shows us that if you don’t hit Americans, they aren’t willing to sit down at the negotiation table.
This was actually the fourth time the Chinese tried to destroy a satellite, GlobalSecurity.org notes. And as “reckless, self-defeating and stupid” as the test was, adds Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis, the test was legal, because there’s “currently no prohibition on destructive ASAT [anti-satellite] testing. There should be.”
UPDATE 01/21/07: Last week’s test has given a “shiver of hope” to the “nations star warriors, frustrated that their plans to arm the heavens went nowhere for two decades despite more than $100 billion in blue-sky research,” Bill Broad says in a tart opinion piece.
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