WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says in his newly released memoir that Pentagon leaders believed a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 was conducted without the consent of China’s civilian leadership.

In January 2007, China deliberately destroyed one of its defunct weather satellites known as Fengyun-1C using a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile. The action, which was widely condemned internationally, left a cloud of potentially hazardous debris in a heavily used belt of Earth orbit.

In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates brought up the anti-satellite test in recounting a March 2009 incident in which a U.S. Navy surveillance ship was harassed by Chinese vessels.  “We would later conclude that this action had been taken by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) without the knowledge of the civilian leadership in Beijing; we believed the same of their test of an anti-satellite weapon some while before,” Gates said. “Both were worrisome because of the apparent independent behavior of the PLA.”

Gates served as the secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011 under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Gates’ book was released Jan. 14.

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...