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ASAT Reaction

2:38 PM, Jan 19, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Reaction to the Chinese ASAT test has been pretty wide ranging over the past couple of days. At the one end, a bunch of folks blame Bush for failing to propose a new international treaty on space weapons. According to Theresa Hitchens, that, and the president's new national space policy, have prompted the Chinese to stage this test as a means of forcing negotiations in "a classic cold war technique." Other comments have been rather dismissive of either the level of expertise this test represents or the impact it will have on bilateral relations.

Arms Control Wonk has been all over this story and brings word of the reaction from Russia, which, unsurprisingly, fits nicely with the take of the blame Bush crowd. From an interview with General Leonid Ivashov, vice-preseident of the Russian Academy of Geopolitcal Affairs:

"We remember Bush's announcements about monopolization of space and his threat to destroy all unidentified satellites. Therefore it is possible to say that, it is indeed the Americans who are provoking a new arms race in space " [Ivashov] said, noting that China is compelled to react to such US policy.

Space.com spoke with Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of the Naval War College's department of national security decision making and an expert on Chinese space policy, who doubted that there would be any serious fallout from the test:

"I think there will be a lot of very vocal rhetoric, but I don't think it will have a substantive impact. There are just too many reasons for both of us to work together on so many issues."

Maybe, but John Pike tells Defense Tech that we should "expect one or two more tests like this every year, for a long time." If Pike is right, it's unlikely that the relationship between China and the United States will be unaffected.

Finally, John, blogging at OpFor, thinks the Chinese test isn't nearly so impressive as reports would have it.

Welcome to 1985, Chicoms. The year when--presumably with REO Speedwagon cranked--we sent an F-15 soaring to the edge of space to kill a target sat.

True enough, the Chinese haven't exactly pushed the limits of modern technology. Still, our ability to strike Chinese satellites is largely irrelevant. The Chinese don't rely on satellite technology to fight, but we do. Again, John Pike:

"Our space assets are the first asset on the scene," Pike said. "They are absolutely central to why we are a superpower - a signature component to America's style of warfare."

The Chinese, he said, simply "don't have satellites worth attacking."