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China developing new military satellites: report

BEIJING -- China is developing cutting-edge satellites that will allow it to project power far beyond its shores and deter the United States from using aircraft carriers in any future conflict over its rival Taiwan, a report said.

The piece in October's Journal of Strategic Studies, a UK-published defense and security journal, runs at odds with China's stated opposition to the militarization of space.

But the report, an advance copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said that the rapid development of advanced reconnaissance satellites to enable China to track hostile forces in real time and guide ballistic missiles has become a key to the modernization of its forces.

While the United States used to be unrivaled in this area, China is catching up fast, it added. “China's constellation of satellites is transitioning from the limited ability to collect general strategic information, into a new era in which it will be able to support tactical operations as they happen,” the report said.

“China may already be able to match the United States' ability to image a known, stationary target and will likely surpass it in the flurry of launches planned for the next two years.”

Beijing has consistently denied it has anything other than peaceful plans for space and says its growing military spending and prowess are for defensive purposes and modernization of outdated forces.

But with the recent unveiling of a stealth fighter, the expected launch of its first aircraft carriers and more aggressive posture over territorial disputes such as one in the South China Sea, Beijing has rattled nerves regionally and globally.

China's space program has come a long way since late leader Mao Zedong, who founded Communist China in 1949, lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space.

Since then, it has launched men into orbit and brought them home, sent out its first lunar probe and begun longer-term programs to explore Mars and establish a space station.

The successful missile “kill” of an old satellite in early 2007 represented a new level of ability for the Chinese military, and last year China successfully tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned earlier this year that advances by China's military in cyber and anti-satellite warfare technology could challenge the ability of U.S. forces to operate in the Pacific.

'Strategically Disquieting'

China's need to use satellites to up its military game became apparent during the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis, when the U.S. dispatched a carrier group after China menaced the self-ruled island with war games, the report said.

Beijing realized it could neither track nor respond to the U.S. ships. The incident also led China to realize it needed the means to keep Washington from using its navy to intervene in a war over Taiwan. Beijing regards the island as a rebel province.

“The most immediate and strategically disquieting application (of reconnaissance satellites) is a targeting and tracking capability in support of the anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hit U.S. carrier groups,” the report said.

“But China's growing capability in space is not designed to support any single weapon; instead it is being developed as a dynamic system, applicable to other long-range platforms. With space as the backbone, China will be able to expand the range of its ability to apply force while preserving its policy of not establishing foreign military bases.”

More broadly speaking, satellites will be able to help China project power.

“As China's capabilities grow, with space reconnaissance as an example, it will be increasingly hard to reconcile the rhetoric of a defensive posture and a more expansive capability.”

1 Comment
July 13, 2011    brucechan@
Law of the Sea :
(Item 3, 4 Article 2 of Charters of United Nations)
“3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
(Article 301 of United Nations Convention on Law of the sea)
“Peaceful uses of the seas
In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention, States Parties shall refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.”
DOC 2002
4. The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
5. The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
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