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Defense Expert Issues Warning on China's Anti-Satellite Efforts

A U.S. defense expert is urging Washington to take seriously the possibility that China could develop space weapons to use against the United States.  He made his comments to a congressional advisory panel Friday, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Defense Department consultant Michael Pillsbury says his concerns that China may decide to develop space weapons for use against the United States stem from books written by three Chinese military colonels over the past six years.

In the books, the colonels advocate the use of secret anti-satellite weapons, without warning, against the United States.

Pillsbury described the colonels' arguments in an interview with VOA:

"What they are doing in their books is saying that if China faces a hostile United States in the future, we Chinese may need to have some way to deter the United States from either attacking us, or coming to the defense of Taiwan," he said.  "If we Chinese ever face that situation, one good way to deter the United States - they use the term "bring America to its knees" - is to have a "shock attack," or a "shock and awe" attack, to borrow a term we [Americans] used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, on U.S.-based satellites."

Pillsbury says the colonels imply that no such system exists in China today.

In his testimony to the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, Pillsbury said even a small-scale Chinese attack against U.S. satellites could have a catastrophic effect on U.S. military forces and the U.S. economy.  He said it is not clear how quickly, if at all, the United States could launch replacement satellites for those that had been incapacitated in orbit by such an attack.

"We could be better prepared, is how I would put it," he added.

In January, China test fired a ground-based missile that pulverized one of its own satellites.   The test was believed to be the first of its kind in two decades by any nation and raised concerns about the vulnerability of U.S. satellites and a possible arms race in space.

Other security analysts who testified with Pillsbury said the anti-satellite test should be a wake up call to other countries about the systems China is pursuing in outer space, adding that Beijing remains secretive about its intentions.

Pillsbury says Washington should make clear to Beijing how seriously it views what he calls the "published advocacy of Chinese covert preparations to weaponize space."  He suggests greater dialogue between the United States and China, and an exchange program that would allow U.S. and Chinese space experts to visit each other's countries.

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