I spoke with John Pike, the long-time military space observer and director of GlobalSecurity.org, shortly after the news broke that the Chinese had destroyed a satellite, more than 500 miles above the Earth. He wondered how much “adult supervision” there had been of the sat-killer test. Perhaps this was a small group of China star warriors looking to teach the U.S. a lesson, he mused — not a big, strategic move from the chiefs in Beijing.
Now, there have been lots of theories about why China decided now to conduct their anti-satellite test. Maybe it was a way to scare the Bush administration back to the negotiating table. Maybe it was done to compete with India’s recent ballistic missile test. Maybe it was a designed to show the U.S. how costly an intervention on Taiwain’s side would be. (The CIA is “especially concerned,” because “the Chinese have become so adept at camouflage,” according to Aviation Week.)
Today’s analysis in the New York Times, however, seems to lend credence to Pike’s guess. “Bush administration officials said that they had been unable to get even the most basic diplomatic response from China,” the paper says. Those American officials “were uncertain whether Chinas top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, were fully aware of the test or the reaction it would engender.”
The American officials presume that Mr. Hu was generally aware of the missile testing program, but speculate that he may not have known the timing of the test. Chinas continuing silence would appear to suggest, at a minimum, that Mr. Hu did not anticipate a strong international reaction, either because he had not fully prepared for the possibility that the test would succeed, or because he did not foresee that American intelligence on it would be shared with allies, or leaked.
In an interview late Friday, Stephen J. Hadley, President Bushs national security adviser, raised the possibility that Chinas leaders might not have fully known what their military was doing.
The question on something like this is, at what level in the Chinese government are people witting, and have they approved? Mr. Hadley asked.
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* Why Did China Smack the Sat?
* China Sat-Killer Not Yet Weapons Grade?