Sunday, January 21, 2007

China, Missiles, and Satellites! Oh My!

While I was at a ski resort and away from my computer a few interesting stories happened. I had the privilege of watching news from BBC World, Deutsche Welle and Al Jazeera in English broadcasts while I was away. I won't blog about them all, but this one caught my eye.

China has tested a missile that can successfully destroy a satellite in orbit. It seems that it was common knowledge that China had the technology, but the test confirms that they can do it.

Maybe I'm incredibly naïve, but as a sovereign nation, doesn't China have the right, and I'm sure its citizens would say, duty, to pursue military technology and to test it?

As Anne Penketh mentions in her article in the Independent "US alarmed by Chinese 'missile strike' on satellite", this type of test has not been "outlawed by international law." China didn't do anything illegal. It just seems like they've managed to step on a few diplomatic toes. They've also made it clear that the playing field in regards to the ability to shoot down satellites is now, without question, equal.

Both the United States and Russia have had this ability for years. Also, my country spends a fair share of its budget on the encouragement and pursuit of military research and development in both the public and private sector. I would expect that with its strides in economic development that we will continue to see China increasing its military capability. I would hope that the folks in the Pentagon are making sure they're on the advanced end of development because China isn't showing any signs of cutting off military spending anytime soon.

Is this test reason for alarm? Possibly.

However, as stated, people knew China had the technology before they completed the test. I don't see why China has to answer the United States regarding this test because it's not like the United States has been in the habit of getting approval for all of its military moves. I understand the concern over space debris, but neither the United States nor Russia were worried about space debris when they blew up satellites in the 1980s. To their credit, both countries did agree to stop blowing up satellites because of the risk of space debris. However, back to the point of my country thumbing its nose at other countries, the case and point is, of course, the war in Iraq.

The diplomats in China aren't stupid. This test was done to send a message. It might be to force Washington's hand in agreeing to a treaty to ban space weapons that Bush refuses to sign or just to ensure that China's unofficial military policy of asymmetric warfare is under no threat from the United States and its allies.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the current administration in Washington, D.C. has the requisite acumen to decipher the message accurately.

More links:
World Politics Watch: China's Anti-Satellite Test Revives Debate About Space Warfare
New York Times: China Shows Assertiveness in Weapons Test
Washington Post: China Criticized for Anti-Satellite Missile Test
International Herald Tribune: News Analysis: China's missile test: A message for U.S.
BBC News: China test sparks space arms fears

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