WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China’s demonstrated anti-satellite capability makes it critical for Washington to work with Beijing to avoid an arms race in space, a leading U.S. think tank said on Thursday.
The Council on Foreign Relations report, “China, Space Weapons, and U.S. Security,” urges the next U.S. administration to update policy for “an era where space is a potentially far more contested domain than in the past, with few rules.”
China’s destruction of one of its defunct weather satellites in January 2007 showed the Chinese military’s ability to attack satellites, the report said. The United States and former Soviet Union demonstrated that capability in the 1980s.
“The risks inherent in space conflict, where vital U.S. interests are at stake, suggest that preventing space conflict should be a major U.S. security objective,” said the report by technology and security consultant Bruce MacDonald.
“The United States and China should both pursue diplomatic options to increase clarity and minimize misunderstanding on space-related matters, and reduce the chances of accidental conflict,” it said.
MacDonald, senior director of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, recommends a mixture of military programs to increase defenses and diplomacy with China on the space issue.
“Both countries have interests in avoiding the actual use of counterspace weapons and shaping a more stable and secure space environment for themselves and other spacefaring nations,” the report said.
MacDonald said China’s military dependence on space remained low compared to the that of the United States, whose high reliance on space presents a vulnerability the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could exploit if it chose to deploy offensive space capabilities.
“The PLA envisions the possibility of conflict in space and they’re preparing for it,” he said in Washington, adding that Chinese thinking on space warfare was not understood completely by outsiders.
China rejected criticism of its 2007 anti-satellite test and Beijing publicly says it opposes the weaponization of space and will not get involved in arms race in space.
Reporting by Paul Eckert