China 'on alert' over US space hit

Beijing warns of threat to space security by US destruction of crippled satellite.

    China has suggested that the US strike was a cover to test anti-satellite weapons [EPA]

    The US had said it needed to shoot the satellite down to prevent highly toxic hydrazine propellant falling on populated areas.


    But China and Russia have both criticised the strike, saying that it could be a cover for a test of US anti-satellite weapons and could fuel an arms race in space.


    Rogue satellite

    Satellite code name USA-193 launched in December 2006 on a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California


    Top secret military reconnaissance mission - otherwise known as a spy satellite


    Controllers lost contact with satellite hours after it entered orbit


    Carrying approximately 450kg of toxic hydrazine rocket fuel


    Satellite itself weighs about two tonnes and is about the size of a bus

    On Monday, ahead of the mission, China said it was "highly concerned" over the proposed US strike, calling on Washington to take steps to "ensure that the security of outer space and relevant countries will not be undermined".


    But on Thursday, after the hit was confirmed, the foreign ministry spokesman appeared to take a less confrontational approach.


    "China further requests that the US fulfil its international obligations in earnest and promptly provide to the international community the necessary information and relevant data... so that relevant countries can take precautions," Jianchao Liu said.


    China itself was criticised by the US and its allies over an exercise last year in which it destroyed one of its own obsolete weather satellites using a ground-launched ballistic missile.


    The test, which destroyed a satellite in a much higher orbit than the crippled US spacecraft, was also heavily condemned for creating thousands of new pieces of space debris, posing a danger to other satellites in orbit.


    China and Russia have both recently expressed concern over what they say are US moves towards the militarisation of space.


    Earlier this month, Russia's foreign minister put forward a joint Russian-Chinese proposal to the UN for an international treaty banning weapons from space.


    On Thursday, Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the US Pacific command, acknowledged similarities between the US strike and China's destruction of its own satellite last year, but he said the US action was significantly different because the US gave public notice first.

    "They just shot, they didn't tell anybody about it," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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