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U.S. adopts tough new space policy

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  • U.S. adopts tough new space policy

    The US has adopted a tough new policy aimed at protecting its interests in space and denying "adversaries" access there for hostile purposes.

    The document - signed by President Bush - also says "freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power".

    The document rejects any proposals to ban space weapons.

    But the White House has said the policy does not call for the development or deployment of weapons in space.

    However, some military experts warn that by refusing to enter into negotiations on space weaponry, the US is likely to fuel international suspicions that it will develop such weapons.

    The 10-page strategic document states that the US national security "is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow".

    "The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests," it says.

    The document also sets out US commercial ambitions, saying it is committed to encouraging and facilitating a growing entrepreneurial space sector.

    It is the first revision in US space policy for 10 years, and it is a forthright one, the BBC's Nick Miles in Washington says.

    It addresses concerns voiced in a 2001 Pentagon report that said technological advances would enable potential enemies to disrupt orbiting US satellites, our correspondent says.

    Unclassified details of the policy published on the internet say space capabilities, including spy and other communication satellites, are essential for national security.

    But the White House said the policy was not a prelude to putting weapons in orbit and that there was no shift in US policy.

    "The notion that you would do defence from space is different from that of weaponisation of space. We're comfortable with the policy", White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

    President Bush authorised the policy in August but it was not released until October.

    During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan proposed a defence shield using laser or particle beam technology to "intercept and destroy" incoming nuclear missiles.

    The Strategic Defence Initiative, or "Star Wars" programme as it came to be known, was abandoned in 1993.

    U.S. adopts tough new space policy

  • #2
    Bush issues doctrine for U.S. control of space


    • #3
      President George W Bush signed an executive order creating a new National Space Policy on Wednesday. The most crucial feature of this policy is that it "rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit US flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone 'hostile to US interests'." It adds: "The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space ... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests."

      As much as the United States is hesitant to admit it, the arms
      race is very much on in space. However, the United States is not the only country pursuing its own military dominance of space. The Bush administration soon will be known for issuing a slew of "strategies." The upside of that pattern is that it enables those in charge of any strategy to think comprehensively and systematically, and to remain focused on all its aspects.

      However, the downside of having a strategy is that it unduly raises hopes for the solution of a problem that any strategy is aimed at resolving. What dashes the hopes of those affected is the realization that having a strategy holds no promise that the issue of its focus will be resolved in the short term. That is what is happening to US strategies to fight global terrorism, and for homeland security, infrastructure protection and cyber terrorism.

      The National Space Policy also suffers from the fact that it is issued in the post-September 11, 2001, era when militarism is such a dominant characteristic of almost all American approaches to national security. So, the policy sends unmistakable signals to Russia, China and India - the first a veteran space power; the latter fledgling actors in that realm - that the United States intends to monopolize its long-standing space presence by militarizing it.

      The Bush administration continues to deny that it has any intention of militarizing space. However, there is ample evidence to conclude otherwise.

      What concerns international observers and America's potential competitors in space is that the US refuses to negotiate a space arms-control accord. Its rationale is that no such agreements are needed, because there is no space arms race. However, the US Air Force has published a Counterspace Operations Doctrine, which "calls for a more active military posture in space", and says that protecting US satellites and spacecraft may require "deception, disruption, denial, degradation and destruction".

      America's space competitors also vividly recall that the current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chaired a commission which recommended to Congress that it develop space weapons to protect military and civilian satellites.

      The Bush administration also made its space-related objectives quite clear at the outset. They comprise strengthening "the nation's space leadership", ensuring "that space capabilities are available in time to further US national security, homeland security and foreign policy objectives" and ensuring "unhindered US operations in and through space to defend our interests there".

      For China, the chief problem related to space competition stems from America's overwhelming dominance in satellite technology. Consequently, the US military can study, on a detailed basis, the movement of forces, movement of vehicles and missile platforms, and other highly sensitive military activities of its potential competitors and adversaries pretty much at will and develop appropriate countermeasures.

      Considering the fact that satellite technology expertise cannot be developed quickly, and in view of the fact that it is a highly controlled Western technology, a country like China does not expect to close the gap with the US in the foreseeable future. However, despite the wide technology gap in the realm of satellite development, China is not without countermeasures of its own.

      Early this month, the Pentagon confirmed that Beijing had "tested its anti-satellite laser and jammed a US satellite". Even though China was not able to damage the capabilities of the American satellite to collect intelligence, it underscored the issue of vulnerability of satellites in future warfare. In a conflict, say, with Iran, Chinese anti-satellite technology could be quite effective in blinding American spy satellites.

      In all likelihood, Congress may revisit its previous opposition to its own anti-satellite laser program, Starfire, whose funding was blocked by the House of Representatives. What also bothers America's competitors is that, during the Bill Clinton administration, the US was willing to abide by treaty obligations regarding freedom of action in space. The Bush administration is willing to do the same. However, it has declared that it "will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space".

      America's overwhelming space-based military superiority is also driving its opposition to any negotiations banning space weapons. A number of its "key weapons systems are now dependent on information and communications from orbiting satellites ... The US military has developed and deployed far more space-based technology than any other nation, giving it great strategic advantages. But with the superior technology has come a perceived vulnerability to attacks on essential satellites."

      There is little doubt that the space arms race is on. Right now, the US is soft-peddling its profound predilection to make sure that it stays way ahead of the game. However, like in all realms of scientific activities, there is no doubt that its predominance will be seriously challenged. China may be the country that leads in closing that gap within the next decade or so. When it does, there is little doubt that China will be as much preoccupied with having its own share of militaristic presence as the United States.

      U.S. turns space into its colony


      • #4
        · International outcry over first such test since 1985

        · Scientists have warned of dangers of debris in orbit

        China has given notice of its increasing power in space - and provoked widespread international concern - with a successful test of an anti-satellite weapon that could be used to knock out enemy surveillance and communications craft.

        In the first such test since the cold war era, the White House confirmed that China had used a medium-range ballistic missile, launched from the ground, to destroy an ageing weather satellite more than 500 miles into space. "We are aware of it and we are concerned, and we made it known," the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, told reporters.

        The test, on January 11, was the first of its kind since 1985 when Washington halted such exercises because of fears of damaging military and civilian satellites with large clouds of debris.

        The test was especially troubling because it exposed the vulnerability of America's dependence on low-orbiting satellites, which are used for military communications, smart bombs and surveillance. In theory, last week's exercise could give Beijing the capability to knock out such satellites - a realisation that underlay the protests from Washington.

        Australia and Canada also voiced concerns; Britain, South Korea and Japan were expected to follow. "The US believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said. "We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese."

        Scientists have long warned of the dangers of space debris - which can remain in orbit for many hundreds of years - on existing space programmes. Among the items lost in space are lens caps, tools and nuts and bolts. Some former Soviet satellites leak fuel which solidifies into balls up to 3cm in diameter. Tiny pieces, including flecks of paint from eroding satellites, can travel at 17,000mph, and gain enough momentum to damage a medium-sized spacecraft.

        Despite yesterday's protests, the Bush administration has opposed a global ban on such tests, arguing that America needs to reserve its freedom of action in space. Arms control experts said it was not immediately clear whether the Chinese test was a ploy to try to press the Bush administration into a global weapons treaty, or whether China was asserting its own interests in space.

        News of the test, first reported by the magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology, comes months after the Bush administration unveiled a doctrine asserting America's right to take action against any perceived threat in space. The missile relied on the force of impact rather than an exploding warhead to shatter the satellite.

        Estimates said the destroyed Chinese satellite could have shattered into tens of thousands of fragments that would remain in orbit for more than a decade.

        The magazine said on its website: "Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang space centre."

        Last August, Mr Bush laid out an even more robust vision of America's role in space, asserting Washington's right to deny access to any adversary hostile to US interests, and some arms control experts have accused the administration of conducting secret research on laser weapons to disable and destroy enemy satellites.

        In public, Mr Bush has sought to revive the national interest in space by calling for Americans to return to the moon in 15 years, and even use bases there as a launchpad for Mars. However, almost all of those costly military space programmes are over budget and behind schedule.

        China hails satellite killer - and stuns its rivals in space


        • #5
          China's success in destroying a weather satellite out in space should be a warning to the world:

          Last week China launched a missile from a base in remote western China and destroyed one of its ageing weather satellites 537 miles into space. It was an eloquent statement of its developing capacity to blind the entire American military system which is dependent on up to 200 satellites - and has sent a cold shiver down the spine of the Japanese, American and Taiwanese military establishments. If ever there is a war in Asia, this will be seen a critical moment.

          China is the second largest military power in the world; it spends more than Britain, Germany and France combined. And the spending is very targeted. China is building up the arsenal it would need to invade Taiwan and hold off an attempt by the Americans and Japanese to relieve it, igniting one of the world's great flash points. No other explanation is possible.

          China protests that it wants to continue to rise peacefully and does not want to disturb the current world order. It has renounced Maoism, proclaim Western intellectuals, and its aims are surely are capitalist economic growth not mounting invasions. Thus both its neighbours and the West comfort themselves.

          The problem is that China has only partially renounced Maoism; the apparatus of dictatorship and one-party rule remain firmly in place but with no viable ideology to justify it. It is a highly unstable, wasteful and inefficient system which is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain. The party's first claim to legitimacy is that so far it has worked. And its second claim to legitimacy is its appeal to Chinese nationalism. It is the custodian of a strong China that keeps foreigners at bay. Jobs and nationalism would be the only two pillars on which Chinese communism could sustain power, Deng Xiaoping told the party after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Deliver those and it might hold off political challenge. It has. Even Chinese history taught in schools plays up the threat from foreigners, eliminates any Chinese atrocities and emphasises the role of the party as China's saviour. Whenever it has suited the party's interest is has turned to nationalism; it raised 46 million e-signatures last year to oppose Japan winning a seat on the UN Security Council.

          Which brings us to Taiwan. This island off the Chinese coast has enormous iconic importance for China in general and the Communist party in particular. Of all the humiliations suffered during the 19th century, Japan's seizure of Taiwan as a colony in 1895 rankles most. To make matters worse, this is where Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist armies fled in 1949 to declare the 'true' Republic of China, around which the US threw a mantle of protection. It is an ever-present ideological threat; proof that a Western-style economic and social model based on Enlightenment values could work on the mainland.

          China has never dropped its claim for sovereignty, in 2005 passing an anti-secession law which declared that if Taiwan attempted to gain full independent statehood China reserved the right to invade. If Taiwan had lost American military protection, China would have done so already: Deng sold the recapture of Taiwan as one of the aims of his reform programme, and the party wants to keep his promise.

          But time is running out. Within Taiwan the use of the local Minnan dialect has soared, displacing Mandarin. Only 3 per cent of Taiwanese now support any form of re-unification. Since 2000 the Democratic Progressive party, pledged to a fully-fledged independent Taiwanese state, has won two presidential elections. Beijing is increasingly concerned that the possibility of recovering of Taiwan is slipping away.

          An invasion would be high-risk. There is only operational airspace over Taiwan for 300 fourth-generation fighters; Taiwan has 300. It would take 1,000 landing craft up to a fortnight to move 30 infantry divisions across the Taiwan Strait - all the time exposed to American and Japanese retaliation. But if the US's command and control satellite network could be knocked out, suddenly the risks would be dramatically reduced. On top, the US is increasingly focusing its military effort in the Middle East. All China needs is a fortnight.

          Very few in Europe understand the Bismarkian, pre-1914 Europe feel to Asian great power politics. In February 2005, China issued an ultimatum to Japan over its occupation of the oil-rich Senkaku Islands; withdraw or face the consequences, sending a five-strong fleet to the islands. Japan responded by putting 55,000 men on alert. Both sides backed off. But China distrusts renascent Japanese nationalism, especially with Japan's now stated wish to change its pacifist constitution. Asia is a powder keg of competing nationalisms, battles for scarce energy resources and unresolved mutual enmities.

          China says it wants treaties - it claims to want a treaty to prevent the militarisation of space - while pursuing balance-of-power politics. It will block India and Japan winning seats on the UN Security Council, thereby guaranteeing the ongoing dysfunctionality of the UN. China is the rogue state par excellence, all the while claiming it is quite the opposite.

          Its unintended ally is George W Bush. China can make its plea for international treaties knowing that the unilateralist US will refuse. Bush then plays Bismarkian politics in Asia, backing Japan - but with dwindling military power. Talk of building a defence mechanism against a Chinese attack on American satellites is for the birds; the expense, given Iraq, and technological complexity make it impossible.

          The pass has been sold. China can do what it wants. If there is unrest within, the party will turn increasingly to nationalism and perhaps even war. It shows that every aspect of globalisation, from space to trade, has to be governed by international treaty and the rule of law. The US reaction to last week should not be a star-wars arms race, but to comprehend the new realities and to respond by multilateral engagement. It won't, so it is no longer scaremongering to warn of the small, but growing risk, of a devastating Asian war.

          Dire straits in the East China Sea


          • #6
            WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman warned on Sunday against fostering an arms race in space after China was reported to have conducted an anti-satellite weapons test.

            Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, said the test was provocative, but that the United States had ways to combat the threat posed by it.

            "I don't think we should be overly worried about this at this point,'' Biden said. "We have ways to deal with that ability.''

            The U.S. said China conducted the test earlier this month in which an old Chinese weather satellite was destroyed by a missile.

            Biden, who is running for president in 2008, said President Bush's policy on weapons in space needs to be reviewed.

            "One of the things we have to talk about is whether or not the, sort of, ideological base notion about how we deal with space and weapons in space and the use of weapons from space is something that is a path we should continue to follow,'' he said.

            In October, Bush signed an order asserting the United States' right to deny adversaries access to space for hostile purposes. As part of the first revision of U.S. space policy in nearly 10 years, the update said the U.S. would oppose the development of treaties or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit America's access to or use of space.

            "This is not the direction we want to go, in escalating competition in space. And we should be talking about it,'' Biden said.

            Analysts said China's weather satellites would travel at about the same altitude as U.S. spy satellites, so the test represented an indirect threat to American defense systems.

            The Chinese foreign ministry has denied knowledge of the test.

            Biden appeared on Fox News Sunday.

            Senator Biden warns against space arms race


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