CHINA / National

'Military should address space security'
Updated: 2006-08-03 06:59

China's military looks to outer space

Outer space is presumably emerging as a possible theater of operations for China's armed forces, researchers said.

The analysis, published in the mass-circulation People's Daily, from a group of unidentified researchers at the National Defense University, listed space as an area where the People's Liberation Army must be equipped and prepared to defend the nation's interests.

"Our military should not only protect China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, but should also protect the oceans and transport routes and other economic interests as well as ... the security of space," it said.

Similar suggestions were put forward last month in the Study Times, a newspaper published by the Central Party School.

"We should strive to develop coordinated land, sea, air and space systems," the paper said.

This seemed to mark a departure from previous strategic literature in China, which has tended to give space a less prominent place in defense planning.

The most recent government white paper on defense published in late 2004 only made scattered references to space and did not characterize it as a possible theatre of operations for its armed forces.

China instead used the white paper to urge efforts to prevent an expensive arms race in space. "Outer space is the common property of mankind," it stated.

"China hopes that the international community would take action as soon as possible to conclude an international legal instrument on preventing the weaponization of, and arms race in, outer space through negotiations."

In a white paper on its space program published in August 2004, the government also acknowledged that national defense purposes were among the main objectives for the development of satellites.

And just like the first American and Soviet astronauts, all China's men in space so far have been former fighter pilots.

Reports suggest that governments across the globe do pay attention to the defense implications of space flight, to the extent that fiscal and technical constrains make that possible.

Earlier this year The New York Times reported the US government was conducting research into building a ground-based laser weapon that could destroy enemy satellites in orbit.

The secret project would use beams of concentrated light to destroy such satellites to disrupt enemy communications.

The weapon is part of a wide-ranging effort to develop defensive and offensive space weapons, the Times said, citing federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The weapon would use sensors, computers and flexible mirrors to counteract atmospheric turbulence.