Senior U.S. Official Insists China Tested ASAT Weapon

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WASHINGTON — The United States has doubled down on its assessment that the Chinese government conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) test July 23.

“Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” Frank Rose, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, said in an Aug. 13 speech at the U.S. Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha, Nebraska.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington told SpaceNews in July the test was of a land-based missile interceptor.

China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported July 24 that the military had announced a successful missile intercept test.

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.

“ASAT weapons directly threaten individual satellites and the strategic and tactical information they provide, and their use could be escalatory in a crisis,” Rose said. “They also present a threat to key assets used in arms control monitoring, command and control and attack warning. The destructive nature of debris-generating weapons has decades-long consequences as well: they can increase the potential for further collisions in the future, which only create more debris.”