A space supremacy to be countered

Is the U.S. planning to “unleash a space war”?

Is the U.S. planning to “unleash a space war”? asked the Rodong Sinmun (North Korea) in an editorial. It recently launched a small spacecraft from Florida with a classified mission that the U.S. Air Force claims is related to research, but which independent analysts say is “designed to destroy the satellites of other countries.” The U.S., of course, was at the forefront of nations criticizing North Korea for our recent launch of a peaceful satellite. Yet not weeks later, it was “shooting off space weapons helter-skelter in violation of international space law.”

And the Americans show no sign of stopping, said Hu Yumin in the China Daily. Even as it seeks to cut defense spending overall, the U.S. is ramping up funding for space weapons. It has just allocated more money to the Prompt Global Strike program, which is intended to deliver a decisive, non-nuclear strike anywhere in the world. And it is now planning to combine that program with space and anti-missile technologies “to form an integrated defense system, which could render other countries’ strategic weapons, including nuclear arms, almost useless.”

China wants peace in space, said the Global Times (China), and the best way to achieve that is through strength. A few years ago, along with Russia, China proposed a treaty that would ban the deployment of anti-satellite weapons in space, but the U.S. refused even to consider it. At this point, the U.S. has an “overwhelming advantage in outer-space strike capability” and could take out any of our satellites whenever it chooses. “In order to lessen the strategic imbalance that results from this gap, China urgently needs a convincing outer-space strike capability of its own.” Only such a capability would deter the U.S. from a first strike. After all, while we hope the U.S. will remain stable and reasonable, “we also see and hear more than a few radical impulses simmering below the surface” in U.S. political circles. So the world should expect a test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon in the near future.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

It’s no surprise that China is so concerned about U.S. space dominance, said Michael Richardson in the Straits Times (Singapore). As it grows, China plans to put many more satellites into orbit for both civilian and military purposes, and they are vulnerable. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space, but it says nothing about anti-satellite weaponry, and both the U.S. and Russia long ago proved their abilities to down satellites. The U.S. says there’s no point in trying to ban anti-satellite weaponry, since it would be impossible to verify compliance with such a treaty. That means China will surely pursue its own capability. Soon the only thing preventing any party from attacking another’s satellites will be “fears of mutual assured destruction.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.