Editorial PARIS — The Chinese government confirmed Jan. 23 that it had sent a missile to destroy one of its own satellites but insisted the test should not be viewed as a hostile act.
In a press briefing in Beijing, Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reiterated that China “has never participated and will never participate in any arms race in outer space,” Liu said, according to excerpts of his remarks provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency. “This test was not directed at any country and does not pose a threat to any country.”
Liu also said China had informed the United States and Japan of the anti-satellite test after the fact.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Jan 22 that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had discussed the anti-satellite test in Beijing with Christopher R. Hill, assistant State Department secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, who is on a previously scheduled trip in East Asia.
But McCormack said the Chinese have yet to fully explain their intentions in performing the maneuver, which U.S. officials say occurred Jan. 11, when China destroyed a retired weather satellite, which was in its operating orbit about 537 miles (865 kilometers) in altitude, with a ground-launched missile.
We’re looking for… a greater understanding of exactly what their intent was, what the specifics were surrounding this test, as well as any programs they may have to conduct future tests, or any details of the program of which this was a part,” McCormack said in a State Department press briefing. “This is designed, really, to avoid any sort of misunderstandings not only with the United States, but with other countries around the world.”
The U.S. Air Force has conducted similar anti-satellite tests in the past, but deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey on Jan. 19 said U.S. policy has changed since the last U.S. anti-satellite demonstration in 1985.
We don’t believe that anyone should be doing these kinds of activities,” Casey said in a press briefing. “Twenty-two years ago, there was a Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. There were a number of factors related to that that dictated quite a different policy on the part of the U.S. than exists now.
More importantly, though, I think you need to look at the development of space in those past 22 years … Not only the United States, but countries throughout the world are dependent on space-based technologies – weather satellites, communications satellites and other devices to be able to conduct modern life as we know it. And so the consequences of any kind of activity like this are significantly greater now than they were at that time.”