US will attack from space? China and Russia call for space arms prohibition.
Since the launch of the first man-made satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957, space exploration, on which man has been devoting efforts, has not only brought huge economic benefits to mankind, but has also dramatically changed man's way of living and thinking.
Statistics show that space-related industries grow at an annual rate of 20 percent, and the profit of international space industry exceeded US$80 billion in 2000, which is expected to increase by over 200 percent in the next 10 years. The human society has become inseparable from the outer space, and it has become a common concern of world countries to make peaceful use of the outer space and ensure space security.
Who is challenging space security?
The end of the Cold War not only dramatically changed the global security circumstance, but put an end to the situation in which arms race in the space was more or less restrained. Superficially, the fast development of space technology and its wide application in military fields are the main factors threatening space security. As a matter of fact, the disintegration of the bipolar structure has made America the only superpower and its boundless expanding strength and ambition are also the actual factors challenging space security.
The dual-purpose space technology and its wide military application have provided potential driving force to space weaponization. Along with hi-tech development, the demarcation between technologies for military and civilian uses has become increasingly blurred. This is manifested as follows: firstly, many key technologies in military fields are at the same time pillar technologies for the development of the national economy; secondly, the convergence of military and civilian technologies is the orientation for technical renovation. The integration of these two kinds of technologies has made it difficult for people to tell one from the other. A case in point is space technology. Navigation, detecting and communication satellites can be applied to both military purposes and economic construction. During the Iraq War, America mobilized more than 100 satellites of various kinds, ranging from highly confidential electronic reconnaissance satellites to meteorological satellites accessible to anyone.
Besides, the wide application of space technology to the military field has, on the one hand, enormously enhanced the US army's capability of global reach and real-time striking, enabling US troops to have a farther sight, faster action, more direct attacking and smoother communication than their enemies. On the other hand, due to the fact that the efficient use of space resources has become an important factor deciding the outcome of war, satellites and other space resources will therefore possibly become targets of attack and intervention during wars and conflicts. Civilian satellites, in particular, due to their role
as supplements and substitutes for military satellites in wars, are much likely subject to attack in war. For this reason, the dual purpose and wide military application of space technology have, to a certain extent, intensified the danger of weaponization of the space.
The US space policy of one-sided search for absolute advantages may trigger off a series of chain reactions and new vulnerability in space. America's attempt, plan and action to control the outer space not only have long been in existence, but also have undergone new development thanks to the effort of the Bush administration. To take the military highland of space all to itself, the US army not only aims to rely heavily on the space, but also wants to dominate it exclusively. As clearly pointed out in the nation's space development guide, the "space control" defined by the US army is the capability to "secure its own freedom of action in space", and at the same time "prevent its rivals from having such capability". The Pentagon is organizing its space combat troops and Rumsfeld has ordered the air force to get ready for "carrying out fast and continuous space operations".
What worth mentioning is that the Bush Administration is developing its missile defense system, aiming at missile interception in space by 2008. An official with the US Missile Defense Agency this year stressed efforts made on developing a space-based test platform, which includes at least three satellites at its initial stage, while a Space-Based Laser (SBL) in the missile defense program will be put into test by 2012. The application of SBL will go far beyond the needs of a missile defense system, experts pointed out. According to the SBL project director, the extra functions of SBL include "defending/attacking anti-space-based fights (i.e., anti-satellite missions); "preventing enemy use of space (such as destroying enemy launching); preventing information input/output of satellites (likely to use low-energy beams to jam satellites rather than directly destroying them); "defending/attacking anti-space fights" and "striking high-altitude planes, cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft". Although the efficiency of SBL is uncertain, the adverse current of space weaponization has appeared.
Due to the development of space technology, existing international treaty framework for planning space activities fails to meet the new growing space security challenge. By now, international treaties relating to the prevention of outer-space arms race mainly include the "Five United Nations Treaties on Outer Space", "Partial Test Ban Treaty", "Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques", "Agreement Concerning Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies", as well as the "Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty" between the Soviet Union and the United States.
These treaties once played a positive role in preventing outer-space arms race, but limited by political, military and technological conditions, they are seriously flawed and unable to prevent arms race in the outer space. For example, the "Five UN Treaties on Outer Space" is weakened in its function of preventing outer-space arms race and laid perils for future weapons in space since it doesn't prohibit the deployment of non-WMD arms nor the development, production and use of outer-space weapons. Some treaties do have strict regulations, but they have ceased to be effective, such as the "Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty" of 1972. Some others fail to be universal because signatories are too few, such as the "Moon Agreement" of 1979. In a word, the current international mechanism for preventing space arms race is too weak to tackle the rapid development of space technology and weapons. The existing treaties must be added or revised, even new treaties need to be concluded through negotiations.
Tit-for-tat lines in space security The new threat to space security has raised higher requirements on outer-space arms control. In recent years, although the international community has made much effort in this regard, the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, due to obstructions from the United States, remained stagnant in the aspects of preventing outer-space arms race and strengthening the outer-space legal system. Currently there are two lines of thought for preventing out-space arms race and securing space security. One is represented by America, which, in quest of absolute security, is against negotiations on space disarmament regardless of the interests of other countries. Now the Bush Administration is bent on expanding its space military capability, believing that actions must be taken to guarantee its security as long as they are technologically practicable. Washington's excuse is that America relies heavier on space than other countries do, so it is obliged to develop a unique space capability to ensure security. America declared its space weapons as defensive, then whom is it to guard against? Are they Russia and China, who have been taken by America as rivals?
The other line is represented by China and Russia. The two countries oppose outer-space armament and arms race, and advocate addressing related countries' space security concerns through international cooperation, this helps enhance international security and
stability and is in the common interests of all countries. To this end, China has been making strenuous efforts to spur the international community to sign related international legal documents through negotiations and proposed to the Conference related documents together with other countries involved. China holds that a special committee for preventing outer-space arms race should be rebuilt as soon as possible to reach, through negotiation, agreements or treaties with legal effect for preventing outer space arms race.
To ensure the effectiveness of the treaties China suggested that they must contain the following articles: prohibition of test, deployment and use of any weapon, weapon system and their components in outer space; prohibition of test, deployment and use of any weapon, weapon system and their components used for outer-space war on land, sea and in the atmosphere; prohibition of the use, or threat of use, of weapons on outer-space objects; prohibition of helping and encouraging other countries, groups and international organizations to participate in activities forbidden by the treaty.
The existence of the two completely different lines shows that the international community must take immediate actions to bring the outer-space weapon control into track. Once a legal binding agreement on space disarmament is reached, it will help remove an important unstable factor in future international security and ensure the continuous peaceful use of space.
[Source: People's Daily, China, 12Dec03. Article on "Liaowang (Outlook) weekly review; translated by PD Online staff member Li Heng.]
This document has been published on 21Jan04 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.