By a Special Correspondent, Jan 23, 2007, on Asia Times.
China’s success on January 11 in destroying one of its own old orbiting weather satellites with a ground-based ballistic missile sent shock waves through US military circles. Not that it came a complete surprise to the Americans. What surprised them was the timing.
The unquestioned US dominance in space has now been challenged. It developed the capability to shoot down satellites in the mid-1980s and had felt confident about its unchallenged supremacy. Only the former Soviet Union also had those capabilities. Now China has emerged as the third country with anti-satellite capabilities, requiring resources be spent to develop countermeasures.
China has a long record of boldly asserting itself as a potential military competitor of the United States …
… Beijing is fully aware that low-Earth-orbit satellites have become indispensable for US military communications, Geographical Positioning System navigation for smart bombs and positioning troops, and for real-time surveillance. Consequently, it quietly intensified spending its own resources in developing defensive measures.
But, of course, China has also been a practitioner of similar doublespeak. While criticizing the United States for developing space weapons and experimenting with a space-based missile system, it has insisted that its own intentions regarding space are purely aimed at promoting peace.
China’s anti-satellite potential is not likely to cause tensions with Washington in the near future. The only assured outcome is the intensification of competition in space, since satellites play a crucial role in the lone superpower’s superior capabilities to shift its military forces and assets globally.
China knew how damaging that US potential is for its own maneuverability in the event of a military conflict.
China was long determined to level the playing field. Now it has, and the Americans are worried. (Read the whole article on Asia Times Online).