China paper accuses U.S. of hypocrisy in space

BEIJING (Reuters) - A leading Chinese newspaper has accused the United States of hypocrisy in criticizing other nations’ space ambitions while rejecting a proposed space treaty and firing a missile to destroy one of its own satellites.

The United States hit one of its own dying spy satellites with a missile on Wednesday, Washington time -- Thursday in Beijing -- citing fears that a normal re-entry would risk lives.

Earlier this month, Russia and China proposed a treaty to ban weapons in space and the use or threat of force against satellites and other spacecraft. But Washington rejected the proposal as unworkable and said it instead favors confidence-building efforts, the New York Times reported.

China, which shot down one of its own satellites in January 2007, is monitoring Washington’s destruction of the satellite.

“The Chinese side is continuing to closely follow the U.S. action which may influence the security of outer space and may harm other countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

The ruling Communist Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, went further, accusing the U.S. of dangerous space ambitions and double-standards.

“The United States will not easily abandon its military advantage based on space technology, and it is striving to expand and fully exploit this advantage,” said the front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the paper, which came out before Washington announced one of its missiles had hit the satellite.

When China tested an anti-satellite missile a year ago, the Bush administration and other governments criticized the act as dangerous.

The Chinese state newspaper said the United States was hypocritical.

“The United States, the world’s top space power, has often accused other countries of vigorously developing military space technology, but faced with the Chinese-Russian proposal to restrict space armaments, it runs in fear from what it claimed to love.”

The paper said Washington was “desperately trying to explain away” its satellite shoot-down as “for purely non-military objectives”.

Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction are banned from space under a 1967 international treaty, but Washington’s plans have caused concerns about non-nuclear arms in space.

Reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard, editing by Benjamin Kang Lim