UK to boost ability to handle space threat from Russia, China

Report says Prime Minister Johnson also set to overhaul UK treason laws to counter threats posed by Moscow and Beijing.

Boris - Putin
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sideline of a conference on Libya at the chancellery in Berlin in January [File: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik via AP]

The United Kingdom will boost its ability to handle threats posed by Russia and China in space as part of a foreign, security and defence policy review being conducted by the government, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

“This week we have been reminded of the threat Russia poses to our national security with the provocative test of a weapon-like projectile from a satellite threatening the peaceful use of space,” Wallace wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, adding that China also posed a threat.

“China, too, is developing offensive space weapons and both nations are upgrading their capabilities. Such behaviour only underlines the importance of the review the government is currently conducting,” he added.

On Thursday, the UK said it was concerned about a Russian satellite test which involved the launch of a projectile with the “characteristics of a weapon”.

Tensions between London and Moscow have been high in recent weeks, as the UK has targeted Russians with new sanctions, accused Russian actors of trying to meddle in last year’s election and said Russia has tried to hack into vaccine research.

Separately, the UK announced on Monday it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an escalation of a dispute with China over its introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies to be purged completely from the UK’s 5G network by the end of 2027.

China – once courted as the prime source of investment in British infrastructure projects – has accused the UK of pandering to the United States.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Johnson was also set to overhaul the UK’s treason laws to counter threats posed by China and Russia, with the step likely to see a new Treason Act, a new Espionage Act and a rewriting of the Official Secrets Act.

Source: Reuters