Japan, Australia Ask China to Explain Space Missile
Paul Tighe and Takashi Hirokawa – Bloomberg January 19, 2007
Japan and Australia asked China to explain the test firing of a missile into space that destroyed an obsolete Chinese weather satellite orbiting the Earth.
The satellite was hit by the missile on Jan. 11, Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said yesterday. Li Junhua, a Chinese envoy to the United Nations in New York, said in a telephone interview that he ``never heard of that.'' The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn't reply to fax and phone queries.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said China should explain its actions while Australia summoned the Chinese ambassador in Canberra and asked for details of the test. The missile launch runs counter to the ``spirit of cooperation'' in civilian space exploration, the U.S. government said yesterday.
President George W. Bush signed a policy paper in October that asserts a U.S. right to use force against any countries or groups whose hostile acts disrupt American satellites.
U.S. government officials have said that some countries are acquiring capabilities to attack civilian and military space systems. While they declined to identify the countries, Defense News, an independent weekly publication, reported in September that China has been conducting tests aimed at blinding U.S. satellites with lasers.
The Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite was hit by a ``kinetic kill vehicle'' on board a ballistic missile fired from or near the Xichang Space Center, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported, citing unidentified individuals in the space field. U.S. intelligence agencies are working to obtain detailed data on the test, the publication said on its Web site.
``We and other countries have expressed our concern to the Chinese,'' said Johndroe.
Australia sought an explanation from the Chinese ambassador on Jan. 16 about China's future plans for developing and deploying weapons systems capable of destroying space assets, Scott Bolitho, public affairs officer at the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said today in an e-mailed statement.
``The destruction of the satellite appears to have created a significant amount of debris, which has the potential to endanger manned and unmanned space assets of other countries, including Australia,'' Bolitho said. ``All nations should have unhindered access to space for peaceful purposes,'' adding countries should avoid actions that ``put the peaceful use of space at risk.''
Call for Explanation
The Japanese government is ``certainly concerned about the report in light of the need for peaceful use of space and security,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a regular press conference in Tokyo. Japan is asking China through its embassy in Beijing to explain its actions, he added.
The government hasn't concluded that China is a military threat, Shiozaki said, adding: ``I hope China takes into account that a lack of transparency will invite various speculation.''
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that China has stated in the past its activities in space are peaceful. He declined to make a specific comment on the test.
China in 2003 became the third country, after the U.S. and Russia, to send a person into space aboard its own rocket. The communist country, fueled by the fastest-growing major economy, plans to send a robot to the moon to fetch lunar soil by 2017.
``American satellites are the soft underbelly of our national security,'' Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said yesterday in a statement. ``It is urgent that President Bush move to guarantee their protection by initiating an international agreement to ban the development, testing, and deployment of space weapons and anti-satellite systems.''
The Chinese satellite was stationed about 500 miles (800 kilometers) above the Earth, and its debris may become a problem for other satellites, said Markey, the chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet.
A cloud of debris may threaten vital U.S. space-based machines, he said. These include a constellation of 66 communications satellites on which commercial and military clients rely.
The U.S. is especially vulnerable to interference with its machines in space because it is so dependent on them. Power, water supply, gas and oil storage, banking and finance and government services rely on communications via satellites.
The military uses satellites for missile tracking, intelligence gathering and secure voice communications with troops on the ground.
Last updated 21/01/2007