News / Asia

    US Sees China Missile Launch as Test of Muscle

    China's communications and broadcast satellite, the SinoSat-2, aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket is launched successfully from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan province, (File photo).
    China's communications and broadcast satellite, the SinoSat-2, aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket is launched successfully from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan province, (File photo).
    Reuters
    The U.S. government believes a Chinese missile launch this week was the first test of a new interceptor that could be used to destroy a satellite in orbit, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Wednesday.
     
    China launched a rocket into space on Monday, but no objects were placed into orbit, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. The object re-entered Earth's atmosphere above the Indian Ocean.
     
    “We tracked several objects during the flight but did not observe the insertion of any objects into orbit and no objects associated with this launch remain in space,” said Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
     
    The rocket reached 10,000 km (6,250 miles) above Earth, the highest suborbital launch seen worldwide since 1976, according to Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
     
    China has said the rocket, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in western China, carried a science payload to study the earth's magnetosphere.
     
    “I want to emphasize that China has consistently advocated for the peaceful use of outer space and opposes the weaponization of outer space as well as an arms race in outer space,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing.
     
    Possible anti-satellite payload
     
    However, a U.S. defense official said U.S. intelligence showed that the rocket could be used in the future to carry an anti-satellite payload on a similar trajectory. Neither the U.S. official nor the Pentagon released details of what the Chinese rocket carried into space.
     
    “It was a ground-based missile that we believe would be their first test of an interceptor that would be designed to go after a satellite that's actually on orbit,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
     
    Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, declined to comment specifically on the rocket launch, but said China was clearly taking a more aggressive posture in space.
     
    “Any time you have a nation-state looking to have a more aggressive posture in space, it's very concerning,” Rogers said at a Reuters Cybersecurity Summit.
     
    The United States remains concerned about China's development of anti-satellite capabilities after Beijing shot a missile at one of its own defunct satellites in orbit in 2007, creating an enormous amount of debris in space.
     
    Monday's rocket launch was similar to launches using the Blue Scout Junior rocket that were conducted by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s for research on Earth's magnetosphere, McDowell said in an emailed response to questions.
     
    He said all the previous suborbital launches above 10,000 km had been conducted by the United States. All China's previous missile tests went to less than 2,000 km, although Beijing had launched orbital vehicles higher, including to the moon, he said.
     
    Most scientific suborbital launches are at most 1,500 km or so, McDowell added. The 1976 launch was Gravity Probe A, when NASA and McDowell's institute worked together to launch an atomic clock to 10,280 km.
     
    Monday's launch came less than a week after U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled what he called a “long overdue” effort to safeguard U.S. national security satellites and develop ways to counter the space capabilities of potential adversaries.
     
    U.S. military space officials are taking steps to improve the resilience of national security satellites in orbit, the defense official said. These include using new wave forms to make it more difficult for adversaries to jam signals from space, putting U.S. sensors on commercial satellites and using terrestrial high-frequency communications.
     
    Last week, the Pentagon released an 83-page report on Chinese military developments that highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora