Chinese Military Space Plans Fuel Concern in Washington

by












  Space News Business

Chinese Military Space Plans Fuel Concern in Washington

By JEREMY SINGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 01 November 2007
04:26 pm ET





WASHINGTON and BOSTON


Growing




concern over U.S. satellite




vulnerability




was




highlighted




recently by a report on Chinese space warfare plans




and a U.S. lawmaker’s call




for




open hearings on space security.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and Space Warfare,” a report released Oct. 17 by the American Enterprise Institute here,




concludes that






China




is preparing for war in space and considers the United States a likely adversary.

“They’re very serious about developing means to attack targets in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface from space,” Larry Wortzel, the report’s author, said at a press conference Oct. 17. Wortzel, a retired U.S. Army colonel and China specialist, said his findings were based on analysis of Chinese military literature.



In




the event of a conflict with China, the United States can expect to see military operations carried out across the domains of land, sea, air, the electromagnetic spectrum and space, the report states. It goes on to say there will probably be




strategic warning of any Chinese use of military force in space, as Beijing likely would telegraph such action with political or legal justifications, the report said.

















Wortzel
said he expects that the Chinese will respect the internationally recognized boundary of space around 100 kilometers






above Earth in times of peace and times of tension, but




could




target




space assets in the event of conflict.

While cautioning that




Beijing’s intentions can never be truly known, Wortzel said




they can be inferred from




military literature and




actions




including China’s




Jan. 11 anti-satellite weapon test and its




illumination of an American satellite with a ground-based laser. Pentagon officials disclosed the latter incident last year.




“There are thus sound reasons to defend American interests in space, engage in mutual threat reduction measures, and to pursue programs that will ensure that the U.S. military will have access to space – and space-based logistical support – in any future conflict,” the report concludes.

Regarding war in space, Wortzel said, “the Chinese know it’s inevitable –









They don’t think it.”





Chinese Embassy spokesman




Wang Baodong said he had not yet seen the report




and could not comment on it by




press time.







Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a think tank here, said the report




was well




researched, but he took issue with some of its conclusions.






“I think [Wortzel]




was not trying to be an alarmist and looking at things very objectively, but his language is occasionally sensationalist and overly negative,” Kulacki said.



Kulacki said he disagrees with Wortzel’s contention




that space warfare is inevitable.




That, he said, hinges on whether the United States and China are willing to conduct serious discussions on




“rules of the road” for space activity




. Kulacki said the first priority




in that discussion




should be




an




agreement banning destructive anti-satellite weapons.



Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has urged




colleagues on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee to hold




hearings on the vulnerability of U.S. military and intelligence satellites. In




an Oct. 4 letter




to Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.),




chairman and ranking member of the panel, respectively,




Franks said that vulnerability was highlighted by China’s




anti-satellite test




.

“It is vital that we understand this vulnerability better so that we may provide our warfighters with the tools they need to mitigate the related threats,” Franks said in the letter.

In a written statement




to Space News, Franks said




too much of the discussion about China’s




demonstration has occurred




in the classified realm. Open




hearings, he said, are needed




for Congress to “truly analyze the issues objectively and be held accountable by the American people.”





In a written response to questions, Tauscher said her current focus is




protecting House priorities in the




2008









Defense Authorization Act, whose final provisions are now being negotiated with the Senate.



“At the end of this process we will assess where we are and decide how to move forward with hearings that address all aspects of our portfolio including the vulnerability of satellites and the administration’s space policy,” she said.

In an Oct. 17 interview, Everett said




he had been publicly warning of the growing threats to U.S. space systems




for years




. He said




he appreciated Franks’ interest in the topic




and




expects









the subcommittee to hold




open as well as classified hearings on space security.



Everett noted that the panel held




open hearings on space security in 2005 and 2006,




and since May 2005 had received at least seven classified briefings on the subject




.

The strategic forces subcommittee




also has recommended increased funding for U.S. space surveillance programs and backed




the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space effort, which could yield systems able to reconstitute U.S. space




capabilities quickly following an attack, Everett said.



Many of the details regarding discussion of threats, vulnerabilities, operations and specific protection measures




must remain classified, Everett said.