CHINA IS WEAPONIZING OUTER SPACE

Harsh Vasani, an Indian geopolitician, on January 19, 2017, in The Diplomat warned of the rising power of China in Outer Space. Below are excerpts from his article:

In the highly “informatized” and technologically advanced battles that characterize the 21st century, outer space will play a dominant role. Space assets direct military operations and help in making crucial battleground decisions. In this regard, attempts to weaponize space and command this sphere are to be expected from great powers. The United States and USSR started weaponizing space in the in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, and China is now following suit.

The weaponization of space includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites, using ground-based direct ascent missiles to attack space assets, jamming signals sent from enemy satellites, using lasers to incapacitate enemy satellites, plasma attacks, orbital ballistic missiles, and satellite attacks on Earth targets. These can be further classified into direct-energy and kinetic-energy weapons.

The weaponization of space is different from the militarization of space, which includes using space-based assets for C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance). The militarization of space assists armies on the conventional battlefield, whereas via the weaponization of space, outer space itself emerges as the battleground, sometimes referred to as the “fourth frontier of war.”

China has been making impressive headway in its ICBM program and in theory, these ICBMs can target U.S. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) satellites.

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping… acknowledged that the space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. “With the development of space programs, Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further into space,” he said.

…the Chinese strategic community sees space as the ultimate high ground, the key to military success on the terrestrial battlefield.
Washington believes that underlying the various civilian aspects of China’s space program is an active military component. A 2015 report prepared by the U.S. Department of Defense suggests that China has invested in advanced space capabilities, with particular emphasis on “satellite communication (SATCOM), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite navigation (SATNAV), and meteorology, as well as manned, unmanned, and interplanetary space exploration.”

A report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recognizes that in a time of war it must deny enemies the use of strategic information about troop and ship movements, incoming missiles, navigation, communication, etc, along with depriving its opponents the use of C4ISR systems.

There is considerable merit in Washington’s claims about the dual-use nature of China’s space program. For instance, Colonel Li Daguang, writing in his book Space War published by National Defense University in 2001, recommends that the Chinese should combine military and civilian technology and integrate peacetime and wartime facilities. His rationale was that space equipment is costly to develop and maintain, hence it is important to have civil-use technology that can also have military applications.

A brief survey of recent tests by Beijing confirms that China is rapidly improving its counter space program and making advances in its anti-satellite systems. China’s first ASAT test was conducted in May 2005 and its capabilities have come a long way since.

A 2013 test by Beijing involved its new missile, the DN-2 or Dong Neng-2, and the test was conducted in “nearly geosynchronous orbit,” where most of the United States’ ISR satellites are located.

…The Washington Free Beacon quotes unnamed defense officials as saying that the DN-3 is “primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities.”

Beijing’s recent space activities indicate that it is developing co-orbital anti-satellite systems to target U.S. space assets. Co-orbital anti-satellite systems consist of a satellite “armed with a weapon such as an explosive charge, fragmentation device, kinetic energy weapon, laser, radio frequency weapon, jammer, or robotic arm.” Besides the “hard-kill” methods, Beijing is also testing soft-kill methods to incapacitate enemy satellites. For instance, China has been acquiring a number of foreign and indigenous ground-based satellite jammers since the mid-2000s. These jammers are designed to disrupt an adversary’s communications with a satellite by overpowering the signals being sent to or from it.

The Chinese believe that the greatest threat to them comes from the United States. To counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel — Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for C4ISR. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.
According to a recent RAND report, space and counterspace operations would be important elements in any armed confrontation between the United States and China.

The PLA’s interest in the use of space for military purposes gained momentum after the 1991 Gulf War, which has been referred to as the “first space war,” and has only increased since.

The DN-2 2013 test jolted Washington and made the United States realize that crucial national security satellites, parked in geostationary earth orbit, are well within the reach of Beijing. As a response, Pentagon announced the launch of a “Space War Center” to counter threats from China and Russia in space, part of a $5 billion boost in space security spending for the Department of Defense. However, over a year and a half later, precious little has come of the Center.

Harsh Vasani is a Postgraduate Research Scholar at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University.

Comment: The Chinese development of its warfare capability in space is growing threat to American national security. It is yet another area in which Democratic administrations after 1991 have neglected the rising threat of China. Beijing is not interested in ”strategic partnership”. The communis regime views America as an adversary. The first step for China is to displace U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region. It is modernizing its military forces especially in the nuclear field.

China does not want open war with the United States. It relies on Sun Tzu, the ancient Chines strategist who wrote: ”Supreme excellence in war consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.

China is with Russia and Iran/Persia one of the three powers in the Rimland of Asia that are presently challenging the West. It is important that the United States reviews its nuclear posture and extends its control of outer space as one step to counter the three empires on the World Island.

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