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Thu, May 22, 2008

Official Cites Uncertainty Over Chinese Space Intentions

Ramped-Up Program Coincides With Growing Army

China's lack of openness about the true intentions of its space program has US officials concerned, a senior military officer said Wednesday.

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey C. Horne, deputy commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China has made incredible advances in space... but the United States is uncertain what the Chinese ultimately hope to accomplish.

The United States regards space operations the same way it regards operations on air, land, sea and cyberspace, Horne said. As space-based capabilities provide critical support to forces in other domains, space operations must also receive the same support and protection from those very forces that they enable.

"Much uncertainty surrounds China's future course, in particular in the area of expanding military power and space assets and how that power might be used," Horne said.

China's burgeoning space program comes as the country's government is spending much more on defense than it has in the past. The People's Liberation Army is also becoming a more professional and better-trained force.

China also has invested billions of dollars in space efforts.

"China views progressive space and counterspace capabilities as essential elements of national prestige and attributes of a national power and a world power," Horne said. "Their current efforts include establishing a wide array of space, counterspace, terrestrial-based capabilities to provide reconnaissance, navigation, communications and support to all types of military and civil operations."

Most disturbing to the United States, perhaps, was the Chinese test of an anti-satellite capability in January 2007, as ANN reported. Chinese military doctrine emphasizes destroying, damaging and interfering with an enemy's reconnaissance, observation and communications capabilities, the general said.

"China's space activities capabilities include [anti-satellite weapon] programs and have significant implications for anti-access and area denial in the Taiwan Straits, contingencies and well beyond," Horne told the commission. While the Chinese currently depend on Russian space technology, he said, the country is working to grow its own capabilities.

"[They] are moving aggressively to assure their own capability for the long term, focused on placing more sophisticated and diverse sets of satellites into orbit and expecting to replace foreign-produced satellites in its inventory with those they produce themselves by 2010," Horne said.

China plans to launch 15 rockets and 17 satellites in 2008, and the nation has announced plans for its third manned mission -- Shenzhou 7 -- in October.

The United States and its allies are vulnerable to disturbances in space, and all nations must take steps to protect this crucial domain, Horne said. "Our adversaries understand the asymmetric advantage our space capabilities provide, and also that it constitutes an asymmetric dependence that can be exploited," he said.

The United States wants to encourage military-to-military conversations with all space-faring nations, the general said, noting that such talks provide important opportunities to increase understanding of each other's intentions and to pursue methods to improve multilateral cooperation.

"Furthermore, understanding each other's specific perceptions and respective doctrines will ensure our force postures are perceived in their proper context, ensuring transparency and building confidence in the protection and sustainability of numerous space capabilities," Horne said.

Horne's organization is part of US Strategic Command.

(Aero-News thanks Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service)

FMI: www.stratcom.mil, www.fas.org/spp/guide/china/index.html

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