China ready to counter US space plans
Updated: 2005-05-23 09:56
China takes U.S. plans to boost its space military
capabilities very seriously and is likely to respond with energetic
counter-measures of her own, a leading expert on the Chinese space program told
United Press International.
Chinese experts and leaders fear if the
United States achieves absolute military and strategic superiority in space it
could be used to intervene in China's affairs, such as the Taiwan issue, Hui
Zhang, an expert on space weaponization and China's nuclear policy at the John
F, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University told UPI.
discussing issues he had presented earlier this week in a paper to a conference
on space weaponization at Airlie, Va., organized by the Washington-based Nuclear
Policy Research Institute.
Chinese leaders have noted that the Taiwan
issue was included as a hypothetical threat in the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission
report on space weaponization. Also, in a January 2001 U.S. war-gaming exercise
China was taken as an assumed enemy, Zhang said.
Hu Xiaodi, China's
veteran senior negotiator on space weaponization, expressed Beijing's fears at a
Committee on Peace and Disarmament panel on October 11, 2001.
rather the attempt toward the domination of outer space, which is expected to
serve to turn the absolute security and perpetual authority (many people call
this hegemony) of one country on earth," he said. "The unilateralism and
exceptionalism that are on the rise in recent months also mutually reinforce
Chinese strategists believe that U.S. missile-defense plans pose a great
threat to China's national security, Zhang said. They believe such defenses
could be used to neutralize China's nuclear deterrent and give the United States
more freedom to encroach on China's sovereignty, including on Taiwan-related
issues, he said.
Washington's readiness to conclude an agreement on
cooperative research and the development of advanced Theater Missile Defense
with Japan has fed such fears, he said.
The Chinese were also concerned
about the Bush administration's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review that called for the
United States to develop the ability to target mobile missiles. "A U.S. demonstration of the linkage between long-range
precision strike weapons and real-time intelligence systems may dissuade a
potential adversary from investing heavily in mobile ballistic missiles," it
Zhang said such weapons would pose a huge threat to China's future
mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But China would not stand
passively by and do nothing if the United States pushed ahead with its ambitious
plans to develop new weapons for force projection from and through space, Zhang
"Historically, China's sole purpose for developing its nuclear
weapons was to guard itself against the threat of nuclear blackmail," he said.
"China first (intends to) pursue an arms control agreement to ban space
weaponization, as it is advocating now," Zhang said. However, "If this effort
fails, and if what China perceives as its legitimate security concerns are
ignored, China would very likely develop responses to neutralize such a threat."
These responses would depend on the specific infrastructure of the U.S.
missile defense and space weaponization programs, Zhang said. But they could
include producing as many as 14 or 15 times as many ICBMs with a range of more
than 7,800 miles that are able to threaten the United States, he said.
Currently, China has about 20 liquid-fueled, silo-based ICBMs with
single warheads. But if the United States deployed a Ground-Based Missile
Defense system with 100 to 250 ground-based interceptor rockets, China would
probably be willing to build and deploy anything from 100 to almost 300 more
warheads and the missiles necessary to carry them, Zhang said.
scientists and engineers would also work on passive countermeasures against
missile defense, Zhang said. These could include deploying decoys and
anti-simulations and reducing the radar and infrared signatures of nuclear
warheads during the midcourse phase of their flights.
"These cheaper and
effective countermeasures are accessible to China," Zhang said.
had options to protect its ICBMs from interception and destruction during their
first and most vulnerable boost phase of their flights, Zhang said. These
include deploying fast-burn boosters, lofting or depressing the ICBM
trajectories and spoofing the interceptor missiles' tracking sensors, he said.
China could also react to boost-phase interceptors by seeking to overwhelm
them through the tactic of simultaneously launching several ICBMs from a compact
area, Zhang said.
Another option would be to protect the missile's body
with reflective or ablative coatings. Or the missile could also be rotated in
flight, he said.
"Given the inherent vulnerability of space-based
weapons systems (such as space-based interceptors or space-based lasers) to more
cost-effective anti-satellite, or ASAT, attacks, China could resort to ASAT
weapons as an asymmetrical (defense) measure," Zhang said.
option would be to develop ground-based kinetic-energy weapons such as miniature
homing vehicles or pellet clouds," he said.
"China should be able to
develop these low-cost and relatively low-technology ASATs," he said.
However, Zhang emphasized that China would only adopt these more
aggressive counter-measures if the United States pushed ahead with its own
ambitious missile defense and space weaponization plans first.
still adhered to the policy set out in its 2000 national defense white paper
that continued nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer
space were preferable strategic options for both China and the United States, he