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China, India hasten arms race in space

June 29, 2008

U.S. dominance challenged
David R. Sands
The Washington Times
June 25, 2008

On the planet's final frontier, more and more countries are beefing
up their border guards.

India became the latest country to boost its defense presence in
space, announcing last week plans to develop a military space program
to counter the fast-growing space defense efforts of neighboring China.

India, which has an extensive civilian space satellite program, must
"optimize space applications for military purposes," army Chief of
Staff Gen. Deepak Kapoor said at a defense conference in New Delhi.
"The Chinese space program is expanding at an exponentially rapid
pace in both offensive and defensive content."

Last month, Japanese lawmakers passed a bill ending a decades-old ban
on the use of the country's space programs for defense, although
officials in Tokyo insist that the country has no plans to develop a
military program in space.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the first major review of
France's defense and security policy in more than a decade, has
proposed nearly doubling spending for space intelligence assets,
including spy satellites, to more than $1 billion annually.

"I don't think what you are seeing is coincidental," said Wade Boese,
a researcher at the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
"Countries are increasingly aware of the potential for military
development in space, and increasingly aware that other countries are
moving ahead."

The issue of an arms race in space took on new prominence in January
2007, when China stunned Western military analysts by using a
medium-range ballistic missile to shoot down a defunct weather
satellite. Pentagon planners said two orbiting U.S. spacecraft were
forced to change course to avoid being hit by the thousands of pieces
of space debris caused by the surprise test.

China insists the exercise was not conducted for military reasons.

"We are against weaponization or an arms race in space," Zhou
Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the United States, said in an
interview at The Washington Times earlier this month. "This was a
scientific experiment."

But in what many around the world saw as at least in part a return
salvo to the Chinese action, the U.S. Navy in February shot down a
wayward U.S. spy satellite over the Pacific, arguing that the action
was needed to prevent the craft from crashing to Earth and spreading
potentially toxic fuel.

India, which competes for influence with China even as trade
relations between the two Asian giants have blossomed, made no effort
to hide its concerns about Beijing's plans for space.

"With time we will get sucked into a military race to protect our
space assets and inevitably there will be a military contest in
space," Lt. Gen. H.S. Lidder, one of India's most senior officers,
said last week in comments reported by the Indian Express newspaper
and confirmed by the country's defense ministry.

"In a life-and-death scenario, space will provide the advantage,"
Gen. Lidder said.

COUNTERTHREAT: Gen. Deepak Kapoor, army chief of staff in India, says
the Chinese space program "is expanding at an exponentially rapid
pace." (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Although the United States holds a vast technological and spending
edge in space defense programs, the military's reliance on satellites
and space-based assets exposes the United States more than any other
country to military threats in space.

Nancy Gallagher and John D. Steinbruner, researchers at the
University of Maryland's Center for International Studies, argue in a
study that the Pentagon cannot hope to dominate space through
technological and material superiority.

The United States will not be able to "outspend and out-innovate all
potential rivals in space," the two argue in a "white paper" just
published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Aides to Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and Sen. John McCain,
Arizona Republican, are staking out markedly different stands on the
space arms race as the presidential campaign heats up.

"We don't need more battlegrounds," Steve Robinson, an Obama campaign
adviser, said in a debate at the National Space Society's annual
meeting in May in Washington. "The idea of militarization of space is
not something that Senator Obama is in favor of, and cooperation is
better than confrontation."

Floyd DesChamps, a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Committee staffer representing Mr. McCain, said the senator from
Arizona recognizes the need to defend U.S. space assets from hostile attack.

"The reality is that we have to protect those assets," he said.
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