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China Admits Anti-Satellite Test, Says Not A Threat To Anyone

AFP | January 23, 2007

China has acknowledged conducting an anti-satellite missile test earlier this month, but said it was not a threat to other countries or a sign Beijing is militarizing space, the State Department said Monday. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill raised US objections to the test with senior Chinese officials during a visit to Beijing over the weekend, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
The Chinese, who had not previously confirmed carrying out the test, told Hill "this was not meant as a threat against anybody and it's not meant to spark a race to militarize space," McCormack told reporters.

The US official expressed Washington's concern that China neither warned its international partners ahead of the test or adequately explained its intentions in wanting a weapon that can shoot down satellites, he said.

"The bottom line is we encourage them to be more forthcoming, more transparent with respect to not only this test but also their space program," McCormack said.

"We're looking for greater understanding of exactly what their intent was, what the specifics were surrounding this test, as well as any programs they may have to conduct future such tests," he said.

Hill, the State Department's top Asia official, was in Beijing for separate talks on organizing a new round of six-party negotiations aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

"It's has been a continuing topic for us to encourage the Chinese to become a little more transparent in terms of their military spending and their military programs," McCormack said.

"They haven't been very forthcoming, is the assessment to date," he said.

The United States revealed last week that China had destroyed an orbiting weather satellite earlier this month using a ballistic missile -- making it the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to shoot down an object in space.

The successful test meant China can theoretically shoot down spy satellites or other orbiters operated by other nations, sparking fears of a space-based arms race.

Washington for now has virtual supremacy in space, with Russia having lost much of its means and China generally still just starting out.

China's aggressive build-up of its military in recent years has been a source of tension in otherwise warming relations between Washington and Beijing.

McCormack said the two side had "made some progress" in building military-to-military ties and communication.

But he characterised these as "baby steps" and said China needed to be more open about the military spending, "policies and doctrines."

earlier related report
US unable to get China to talk about antisatellite weapon test: report
Washington (AFP) Jan 21 - The United States has been unable to get any diplomatic response from China after its detection of a successful test of a Chinese antisatellite weapon 10 days ago, The New York Times reported on its website Sunday. Citing US administration officials, the newspaper said these officials were uncertain whether China's top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, were fully aware of the test or the reaction it would engender.

US officials said in interviews that the United States kept mum about the test in hopes that China would come forth with an explanation, the report said.

A Chinese missile destroyed an old weather satellite more than a week ago, signaling China's growing capability to operate in open space.

US officials presume that President Hu was generally aware of the missile testing program, but speculate that he may not have known the timing of the test, the paper said.

China's continuing silence would appear to suggest that 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 US intelligence on it would be shared with allies, or leaked, The Times said.

In an interview late Friday, US national security adviser Stephen Hadley raised the possibility that China's leaders might not have fully known what their military was doing, the report said.

"The question on something like this is, at what level in the Chinese government are people witting, and have they approved?" Hadley is quoted by The Times as asking. He suggested that the diplomatic protests were intended, in part, to force Hu to give some clue about China's intentions, the paper said.

"It will ensure that the issue will now get ventilated at the highest levels in China," Hadley is quoted as saying, "and it will be interesting to see how it comes out."

The test demonstrated that China could destroy American spy satellites in low-earth orbit -- the very satellites that picked up the destruction of the Chinese weather satellite, the report said.

Chinese military officials have extensively studied how the United States has used satellite imagery in the Persian Gulf war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in tracking North Korea's nuclear weapons program, The Times said.

Several senior administration officials said, according to the report, that such studies had included extensive analysis of how satellite surveillance could be used by the United States in case of a crisis over Taiwan.

 

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