A New York Times report from January 19, 2007 states that China has successfully carried out its first test of an anti-satellite weapon. According to the report, the test signals China’s “…resolve to play a major role in military space activities….” The test brought about expressions of concern from Washington and other capitals, according to the Times.
Previously, only two countries, the United States and the former Soviet Union, had conducted anti-satellite tests that destroyed spacecraft. The Times reported the most recent of such tests was by the United States some twenty years ago.
The report cited arms control experts who “…called the test, in which the weapon destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, a troubling development that could foreshadow an anti-satellite arms race.” Some have speculated, according to the Times, that the test could precede diplomatic efforts by Beijing to start negotiations for a weapons ban with Washington.
“This is the first real escalation in the weaponization of space that we’ve seen in 20 years,” Jonathan McDowell is quoted as saying. McDowell is a Harvard astronomer who studies rocket launchings and space activity. “It ends a long period of restraint,” McDowell is reported to have said.
According to the Times, White House officials said the United States and other nations had “expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese.” The report says that despite the protests by the Bush administration, the President “…has long resisted a global treaty banning such tests because it says it needs freedom of action in space.”
The Times cited a spokesman from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Jianhua Li, as saying that he had heard about the anti-satellite story but that he had no information or statement about the test.
The report says, “At a time when China is modernizing its nuclear weapons, expanding the reach of its navy and sending astronauts into orbit for the first time, the test appears to mark a new sphere of technical and military competition.” According to the Times, U.S. officials complained “…that China had made no public or private announcements about its test, despite repeated requests by American officials for more openness about its actions.”
According to the report, the test theoretically means that China could hit American spy satellites now.
Information for this article was obtained from “Flexing Muscle, China Destroys Satellite in Test,” by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, published January 19, 2007 in the New York Times.