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China Under Pressure To Explain Satellite Missile Strike

"There's no need to feel threatened about this," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Friday. "We are not going to get into any arms race in space," he said.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 20, 2007
China came under growing pressure on Saturday to explain the shooting-down of a satellite as condemnation continued to pour in from around the globe. The United States and Australia both said they were waiting to hear from Beijing after it reportedly blasted one of its own weather satellites on January 11.

"We've asked the Chinese to give us some greater details about what they did, why they did it, and explain it in greater detail to us simply because of the concerns that we have about this issue," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, who summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest, said he was still also waiting on Saturday to hear an official explanation.

"The information we have is that a missile was fired at an old Chinese weather satellite and destroyed the weather satellite, and so we would like to hear what China has to say about it," Downer said.

"The Chinese have always opposed the militarization of outer space, so that's why we look forward to hearing what they have to say about the issue," he added.

"They're not saying very much about it, I must say, at the moment."

The missile blast was reported by US officials but not confirmed by Beijing, which has played down fears of an extraterrestrial arms race.

"There's no need to feel threatened about this," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Friday.

"We are not going to get into any arms race in space," he said.

If confirmed, it would be the first case since the 1980s when the Soviet Union and the United States both destroyed satellites in space.

The test would mean China could now theoretically shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations.

The United States, which condemned the strike on Friday, expressed worries that debris could endanger the manned International Space Station or orbiting satellites.

The problem of debris forced the US and Soviet Union to abandon the practice of shooting down satellites.

"I think you've certainly seen, given the history of some of the events of manned space flights, that small things can cause very big problems," said State Department spokesman Casey.

US ally Taiwan, which China regards as its territory and has repeatedly threatened to invade, called for worldwide pressure on Beijing and warned of a threat to regional peace.

"We urge the international community to express their concerns over China's move, which would have negative impact on peace in the Taiwan Strait and in the region," said cabinet spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang.

"The satellite shoot-down showed that China has expanded its arms race to space and that its so-called 'peaceful rise' is merely an illusion," he said.

Canada also expressed "strong concerns", the foreign ministry said.

"Canada has expressed its strong concerns to the Chinese authorities over the reported anti-satellite test and the possible negative effects," said a ministry spokesman in Ottawa.

Meanwhile newspapers around the world voiced concern over the incident and urged efforts to ban the use of weapons in space.

"In a power play reminiscent of the Cold War, it (China) has unilaterally kicked aside a well-established international policy of voluntary restraint," the London Times editorial said.

"Instead of gloating, Beijing should move rapidly to repair the damage, first by providing full details of the test. It should then rejoin the consensus against testing in space."

The New York Times said: "The way to counter China or any other potentially belligerent space power is through an arms control treaty, not a new arms race in space."

earlier related report
World's newspapers condemn China's satellite shooting
London (AFP) Jan 20 - Newspapers around the world on Saturday expressed concern after China shot down a satellite, urging new efforts to prevent an arms race in space.

The London Times said the action, reported by US officials but not confirmed by China, was an eerie reminder of the Cold War stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"In a power play reminiscent of the Cold War, it has unilaterally kicked aside a well-established international policy of voluntary restraint," The Times editorial said.

"Instead of gloating, Beijing should move rapidly to repair the damage, first by providing full details of the test. It should then rejoin the consensus against testing in space."

The New York Times said Washington should react by working to ban the use of weapons on space.

"Surely it would make military and diplomatic sense to ... seek to ban all tests and any use of anti-satellite weapons," its editorial argued.

"Some experts suggest that China's latest test is intended to prod the United States to join serious negotiations.

"The way to counter China or any other potentially belligerent space power is through an arms control treaty, not a new arms race in space."

Washington said China fired a missile to destroy an orbiting weather satellite last week, making it the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to shoot down an object in space.

The missile was reportedly fired from the Xichang space center in central Sichuan province on January 11 and destroyed a Chinese weather satellite launched in 1999.

If confirmed, the test would mean China could now theoretically shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post speculated that China was trying to force the United States into talks on an arms treaty.

"Washington says Beijing's surprise test is not consistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space field," the Post said.

"More convincing perhaps is the assessment by some experts that China could be showing off its space capabilities to bring the US to the negotiating table," it added.

However, London's Financial Times worried that the test could harden attitudes in Washington.

"The Chinese test may or may not lead to a new arms race in space. But it will certainly strengthen the hand of hawks in Washington who regard Chinese power as a strategic threat to the US," it said.

The Australian warned that China may be preparing for an invasion of US ally Taiwan, which it regards as part of its territory.

" ... most of China's massive military build-up in recent years has had two things in mind -- Taiwan and the US," foreign affairs editor Greg Sheridan said in a comment piece.

"Whatever anyone says about the demilitarisation of space, whatever protocols are signed, if there is ever, God forbid, a conflict between two technically proficient big powers like the US and China, it will be fearsomely destructive and satellites will be among the first targets," he added.

The Taipei Times slammed Beijing's behaviour as "irresponsible".

"In the wake of the North Korean nuclear test, this missile test suggests that Beijing has, if anything, taken on Pyongyang as a role model," it said.

The Indian Express voiced worries over India's own space and military ambitions.

"It threatens our own expanding civilian space assets, undermines the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, and exposes New Delhi's lack of a military space strategy," it said in an editorial.

"India can either respond with a robust military space effort in collaboration with the US or consign itself to the status of a second-rate power in Asia."

earlier related report
China Satellite Shoot-Down Concerns Taiwan
Taipei (AFP) Jan 20 - Taiwan on Saturday expressed concern after rival China reportedly shot down a space satellite for the first time, saying the act would negatively affect peace between them and in the region. "We urge the international community to express their concerns over China's move, which would have negative impact on peace in the Taiwan Strait and in the region," said cabinet spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang.

"The satellite shown-down showed that China has expanded its arms race to space and that its so-called 'peaceful rise' is merely an illusion," he said.

The English-language daily Taipei Times expressed similar sentiment in an editorial, saying Beijing is following Pyongyang's lead in the misuse of space technology.

"This incident demolishes the suggestion that the Chinese military and its Communist Party bosses can behave in an accountable, let alone responsible, manner in military and space affairs," it said.

"In the wake of the North Korean nuclear test, this missile test suggests that Beijing has, if anything, taken on Pyongyang has a role model."

The paper urged the US to denounce China "in the strongest terms" as the latter is "playing the Pentagon for a pack of fools" by launching the missile without informing it.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, despite their split in 1949 after a civil war.

Washington said China had fired a missile to destroy an orbiting weather satellite last week, making it only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to shoot down an object in space.

If the test, which according to US magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology took place on January 11, is confirmed, China could now theoretically shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations.

China declined to confirm the incident Friday but foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists "there's no need to feel threatened about this," adding that China was "not going to get into any arms race in space."

earlier related report
Canada Concerned Over Satellite Killer
Ottawa (AFP) Jan 19 - Canada has expressed concern to China after Beijing reportedly shot down a satellite for the first time, the foreign ministry said Friday.

"Canada has expressed its strong concerns to the Chinese authorities over the reported anti-satellite test and the possible negative effects," a ministry spokesman told AFP, without elaborating.

Washington said China had fired a missile to destroy an orbiting weather satellite last week, making it only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to shoot down an object in space.

If the test, which according to US magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology took place on January 11, is confirmed, China could now theoretically shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations.

On Friday Washington voiced concern the test may also have scattered debris in space that could endanger the manned International Space Station or orbiting satellites.

China declined to confirm the incident Friday but foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists "there's no need to feel threatened about this," adding that China was "not going to get into any arms race in space."

earlier related report
China's weapons test a threat to India
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 20 - China's shooting down of a satellite is a threat to India's space program which plans unmanned missions to the moon and Mars, defence experts and the media said Saturday.

"It threatens our own expanding civilian space assets, undermines the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, and exposes New Delhi's lack of a military space strategy," the Indian Express newspaper said in an editorial.

"India can either respond with a robust military space effort in collaboration with the US or consign itself to the status of a second-rate power in Asia," the daily said under the headline "Spaced Out?"

India's foreign ministry did not comment on China becoming only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to shoot down an object in space.

But M. Natarajan, scientific advisor to India's defence minister said it was a matter of concern if such missiles could "disable" satellites, particularly those with navigation and military applications.

"We are looking into it. We will make our own assessment (to see) what steps we need to initiate in this direction," the Press Trust of India quoted Natarajan as telling reporters in the southern IT city of Bangalore.

The shooting of its weather satellite was reported by US spy agencies on Thursday, drawing condemnation from Washington and its Asian allies amid concerns about China's growing military might. If confirmed, the test would mean China could now theoretically shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations.

However Beijing has played down fears of a military space race while refusing to confirm the shootdown had occurred.

The test is "definitely a concern for all countries with satellite capabilities," K. Santhanam, former chief adviser to the state-funded Defence Research and Development Organisation told the Times of India.

"Satellites, after all, form an important past of communications, command, control and intelligence systems," Santhanam said.

This month the civilian Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched a rocket into space carrying a remote sensing satellite as well as satellites from Indonesia and Argentina.

The ISRO's ambitious space program includes unmanned missions to the moon by 2010 and to Mars by 2013.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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China Shows Its Power With Anti Satellite Test
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 20, 2007
China's apparently successful destruction of a satellite in space shows its determination to be a global power and is set to leave lasting jitters in the United States and Asia, analysts say. The weapons test, which was not confirmed by China, would be the world's first since 1985 when Cold War superpowers Washington and Moscow agreed to suspend activities that sought to destroy satellites.







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