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US Defense Official: China’s Anti-satellite Test ‘Unpleasant Development’ February 2, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–A top U.S. defense official Thursday called China’s test of a satellite-killing weapon a display of an “obviously destabilizing capability” that underlined the need for better communication to defuse possible conflict between the two powers.

Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, told a congressional advisory panel that the U.S. considers the Jan. 11 destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite by a warhead an “unpleasant development.” He noted that many U.S. military space assets are vulnerable to attack by anti-satellite weapons.

“We have a very serious issue here, with a need to get them into a discussion,” Lawless told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “Otherwise, these misunderstandings are going to continue to increase, and we’re going to have a much higher level of concern.”

The test, confirmed by Beijing after nearly two weeks of silence, has sparked outrage around the world and has rattled U.S. lawmakers who had been distracted by a fierce debate over President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.

It has the potential of worsening a host of tensions between the nations. Those include Washington’s pressure on China to support U.S. efforts in the United Nations to punish Iran’s nuclear ambitions; complaints about China’s military buildup; and Washington’s charge that China befriends international reprobates to secure sources of energy.

China said Thursday it was ready to work with other countries on an agreement to prevent an arms race in space. The test made China only the third country after Russia and the United States to shoot down anything in space.

Lawless called “farfetched” the notion that China’s top leaders may not have known of the anti-satellite arms test before it happened. “It is hard to imagine that this was a surprise to the leadership of China,” he said.

Also at Thursday’s hearing, U.S. lawmakers called for legislative action to address a huge trade imbalance with China, reflecting what they described as a growing impatience among U.S. citizens with Beijing’s economic policies.

“It is dangerous for our national security. It is dangerous for our economy, and we need to do something about it,” Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin told the advisory panel.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told skeptical lawmakers that new high-level talks with China offer the greatest chance of success in reducing a soaring U.S. trade deficit.

But lawmakers from both political parties said they believed China would listen to American complaints only if the country faced punitive economic sanctions.

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