The code, which has 124 signatories, was established in 2002 and is aimed at promoting missile nonproliferation through transparency and "Confidence Building Measures".

'No threat'

Despite press reports last week quoting US officials describing the test in detail, Beijing did not itself confirm that the test had been carried out until Tuesday - 12 days after the test itself.

In China’s first official comment on the matter Liu Jianchao, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said neither the test itself nor China’s own delay in commenting on the matter should be matters for concern.

"This test was not directed at any other country and does not constitute a threat to any country," he said.

Liu’s and other official statements, however, have done little placate suspicion in Japan and the West over China’s publicly stated commitments to using space for peaceful means.

'Provocative'

The test was apparently the first successful destruction of a satellite in orbit in more than 20 years.

The US and the former Soviet Union both tested anti-satellite technology in the 1980s during the peak of the Cold War.

Japan, the US, Britain and Australia have all called on Beijing to explain the test, expressing fears about an arms race and the militarisation of outer space.

At a minimum, the test has shaken up perceptions about where the Chinese space programme is headed.

Commenting on the test Rob Hewson, the London-based editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons told the Associated Press the Chinese action was "an overtly military, very provocative event that cannot be spun any other way."