Biggest threat in space comes from China, says US general

A US general cited that China maintains technologies such as anti-satellite missiles ( ASAT ), directed energy weapon systems and devices with orbital interception capabilities.


Space has “changed radically” in just a few years due to the escalating arms race, according to a US general, noting that the biggest “threat” is China , followed by Russia .

“We are seeing that our strategic competitors are making a wide variety of weapons,” General Bradley Chance Saltzman, the commander of US space operations, said in an interview with a small group of media.

“The most challenging threat is China , but also Russia ,” he said in a discussion on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

The military cited technologies such as anti-satellite missiles ( ASAT ), directed energy weapons systems and devices with orbital interception capabilities.

“We have to keep in mind that space as a contested domain has radically changed. The way we operate in space has to change, and that’s mostly because of the weapons that (China) and Russia have tested and, in some cases , put into operation,” he explained.

These statements have a special character given the growing tensions between the United States and China , which were reflected in the tense exchanges on Saturday in Munich between the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, and his Chinese counterpart , Wang Yi, on the alleged Chinese spy balloon.

Blinken warned Wang that “it must not happen again” that China sends a plane over US airspace .

For his part, the head of Chinese diplomacy stated that Washington’s reaction to bring down the balloon damaged relations between the two countries.

Beijing claims the balloon was a meteorological research device that veered off course.

space arms race

The arms race in space is nothing new. In 1985, the Pentagon used a missile to destroy a satellite on a test basis. China followed suit in 2007 and India in 2019.

Countries are increasingly secretive about their military activities in space, but in 2019, when the Pentagon launched its Space Force, the US Department of Defense projected that Russia and China had the potential to outpace the United States.

Saltzman denied that the United States is lagging behind.

But, the fight has evolved and the idea is no longer to destroy satellites with missiles or build kamikaze satellites, but to find ways to damage them with lasers or powerful microwaves.

The conflict in Ukraine has served as a reminder of the importance of space in current and future wars.

“Space is important in modern warfare,” Saltzman said. “You can attack space without going into space, through cyber networks or other vectors. We have to make sure that we are defending all of these capabilities.”

Increasing military activity, in combination with commercial operations, pose potential problems of collateral damage or destructive debris.

Space “is going to get more and more congested,” he added.

Saltzman has not held talks with his Chinese and Russian counterparts , his team said.

“If we can operate with a clear idea of ​​what the standards are, we will be much more secure,” he concluded.

(With information from AFP)