U.S. might have dissuaded China anti-satellite launch

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first_img160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The events show that the administration felt constrained in its dealings with China because of its view that it had little leverage to stop an important Chinese military program, and because it did not want to let Beijing know how much the United States knew about its space launching activities. “We did get warning that the test was being prepared,” said an official, who described the administration’s thinking in deciding not to ask the Chinese to cancel the test. “I think it is fair to say that nobody knows whether the Chinese would have deferred or canceled the test,” the official added. “The principals’ best judgment, including the leadership of the intelligence community, was that they were committed to testing the anti-satellite weapon.” But some experts outside government say that American officials might have been able to dissuade the Chinese from launching the anti-satellite weapon had the officials been willing to enter into a broader discussion of ways to regulate military competition in space. China had long advocated an agreement to ban weapons in space, an approach the Bush administration has rejected in order to maintain maximum flexibility for developing anti-missile defenses. “Had the United States been willing to discuss the military use of space with the Chinese in Geneva, that might have been enough to dissuade them from going through with it,” said Jeffrey G. Lewis, an arms control expert at the New America Foundation. WASHINGTON – After a Chinese interceptor smashed into a target satellite in January, Bush administration officials criticized the test as a destabilizing development. It was the first successful demonstration of an anti-satellite missile by any country in more than 20 years. Pentagon officials warned that the test had increased the threat to American satellites. Space experts fretted that it had spawned a cloud of orbiting debris. American diplomats complained to their counterparts in Beijing. What administration officials did not say is that as the Chinese were preparing to launch their anti-satellite weapon, American intelligence agencies had received reports about the preparations being made at the Songlin test facility in southern China. In high-level discussions, senior Bush administration officials debated how to respond and even began to draft a protest, but ultimately decided to say nothing to Beijing until after the test. Three months after the Chinese launching, a new debate has developed as to whether the administration properly handled the episode or missed an opportunity to discourage the Chinese military from crossing a new military threshold. last_img read more