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U.S. General Warns: China Is the Biggest Threat in Space

FILE PHOTO: On the evening of November 29, 2022, the Long March 2F carrier rocket carried the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft and three astronauts to China's Tiangong Space Station, and lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gansu Province.
FILE PHOTO: On the evening of November 29, 2022, the Long March 2F carrier rocket carried the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft and three astronauts to China’s Tiangong Space Station, and lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China’s Gansu Province.

A U.S. general said space had “fundamentally changed” in just a few years due to an intensifying arms race, and pointed to China as the “most challenging threat”, followed by Russia.

“We see our strategic competitors producing all kinds of weapons,” General Bradley Chance Saltzman, the head of US space operations, told a group of media.

“The most challenging threat is China, but also Russia,” he said later Saturday on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, citing threats including anti-satellite missiles, ground-based directed energy, and orbital intercept capabilities. technology.

He said, “We have to take into account the fact that space has fundamentally changed as a competitive arena. The way we operate in space has to change, largely because weapons (China) and Russia have tested and in some cases already in use.”

His words carry weight given rising US-China tensions – underscored by a tense exchange between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich on Saturday over a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

Blinken warned Wang Yi that China must not repeat this “irresponsible act” of launching a balloon in U.S. airspace, while Wang said Washington’s response — shooting down the balloon — had damaged relations between the two countries.

Space arms race:

The space arms race is nothing new. Back in 1985, the Pentagon used a missile to destroy a satellite in a test.

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Since then, U.S. rivals have sought to demonstrate their competitiveness — China did the same in 2007 and India in 2019.

In February 2020, an American general noted that two Russian satellites had entered orbit and were tracking an American spy satellite.

In late 2021, Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a missile launched from Earth, a show of force that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned as irresponsible.

“Adversaries are using space … to target and extend the range of their weapons,” General Salzman said. “That’s really what’s changing in the space domain. “

Countries are increasing secrecy over their military activities in space, but the competition is so fierce that in 2019, the year the Pentagon created a Space Force, it predicted that Russia and China could overtake the United States.

Salzman dismissed the notion that Washington had fallen behind.

But the battle has shifted, from the idea of ​​destroying satellites with missiles or kamikaze satellites to finding ways to destroy them with laser weapons or powerful microwaves.

“I will always make sure that I retain the ability to carry out the most critical functions, such as national command and control, or nuclear command and control,” General Salzman said.

“Responsible Behavior”

The war in Ukraine is a reminder of the fundamental importance of space in todays and future conflicts. “Space is important to modern warfare,” Salzman said. You can attack space through the Internet or other vectors. We have to make sure we are defending all of these capabilities. “

However, increased military activity, coupled with increased commercial production, does present potential problems with collateral damage, destructive debris, and broader international norms of conduct.

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An aide to Salzman told the media that Salzman never held talks with his Chinese and Russian counterparts. In Munich, he met with the Norwegian Defense Minister and participated in a panel discussion.

“We talked about responsible behavior,” he said. “There’s the right way to behave in space, there’s no debris, there’s no interference, there’s a safe distance and a safe trajectory, and we communicate when we have problems.”

The space will become “increasingly crowded,” he added.

“If we could have a clear understanding of what the standards are, we’d be a lot safer.”

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