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China confirms satellite-killing test

Sabre indeed rattled

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China has confirmed it recently used a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy an old weather satellite, the BBC reports.

A statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao backed up initial claims in American Aviation Week and Space Technology which reported that a Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite had been targeted at an altitude in excess of 537 miles (865km) above the Earth by "an anti-satellite system" launched on 11 January "from or near" the Xichang Space Centre.

Unsurprisingly, the report caused a certain amount of consternation worldwide, with US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe declaring last Thursday that the US believes "China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area".

Liu, however, told reporters that China had notified "other parties and... the American side" of its test. He continued: "China stresses that it has consistently advocated the peaceful development of outer space and it opposes the arming of space and military competition in space. China has never, and will never, participate in any form of space arms race."

The US objection to China's latest piece of sabre-rattling is consistent with its "do as I say, don't do as I do" stance. Back in October 2006, president Bush unveiled the country's new space policy, in which it "allocated itself rights to access and use space without anyone else getting in its way", as we put it at the time. It also "set security at the heart of the space agenda, frequently citing its right to use space as part of its national defence". ®

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