Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

China's Space Debris Cleanup May Be Cover Story, Pentagon Says

China's Space Debris Cleanup May Be Cover Story, Pentagon Says

China is developing sophisticated space capabilities such as "satellite inspection and repair" and debris clean-up - "at least some of which could also function" as weapons against United States satellites, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency in a report published on Monday.

On Monday, the agency released an unclassified report on the security threat to the US's dominance in space.

USA defense intelligence officials believe Russian Federation and China have spent the past four years increasingly aligning their militaries around the importance of space operations.

Additionally, Russia and China now have "enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track and target US and allied forces", the report said.

Describing both countries' space services as "robust", the DIA said Russian Federation and China were able to use their apparatuses to "monitor, track, and target United States and allied forces". It concentrates on the capabilities under development in China and Russian Federation, but it doesn't ignore the space threat posed by North Korea and Iran.

Both countries have established their own global positioning system satellite networks.

"Having seen the benefits of space-enabled operations, some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others' ability to use space", DIA officials wrote in the report. But Rep. Mike Rogers, then-chairman of the US House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, told CNN in 2018 'the future of war will be fought in space.' 'Russia and China are surpassing us in space capabilities, and we need to dedicate a separate force exclusively with a space mission, ' he said.

The report is meant to support a deeper public understanding of keyspace and counter space issues and inform open dialogue and partner engagement on these challenges.

"The advantage that the United States holds in space - and our perceived dependence on it - will continue to drive actors to improve their abilities to operate in and through space", the report says.

They have also developed the command and control systems needed to deploy these capabilities as weapons.

The report said space is growing busier, including as commercial flights advance, and the sphere is increasingly vital to military operations.

The report is aimed at education; the public needs to understand all that space brings to the United States, its allies and the world at large, said a senior Defense Department official, speaking on background.

Globally, the space industry will continue to expand as technological and cost barriers fall and worldwide partnerships for joint production grow.

Reacting to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday: "First of all, I want to make it clear that outer space belongs to all mankind".

"The number of satellites and debris on orbit will grow concurrently, making tracking satellites, discriminating threats from non-threats, and predicting and preventing collisions a greater challenge", it said.

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