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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

US unable to get China to talk about antisatellite weapon test: report

The United States has been unable to get any diplomatic response from China after its detection of a successful test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon 10 days ago, The New York Times has reported.

Citing US administration officials, the newspaper said these officials were uncertain whether China’s top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, were fully aware of the test or the reaction it would engender.

US officials said in interviews that the United States kept mum about the test in hopes that China would come forth with an explanation, the report said.

A Chinese missile destroyed an old weather satellite more than a week ago, signaling China's growing capability to operate in open space.

US officials presume that President Hu was generally aware of the missile testing program, but speculate that he may not have known the timing of the test, the paper said.

China’s continuing silence would appear to suggest that Hu did not anticipate a strong international reaction, either because he had not fully prepared for the possibility that the test would succeed, or because he did not foresee that US intelligence on it would be shared with allies, or leaked, The Times said.

In an interview late Friday, US national security adviser Stephen Hadley raised the possibility that China’s leaders might not have fully known what their military was doing, the report said.

"The question on something like this is, at what level in the Chinese government are people witting, and have they approved?" Hadley is quoted by The Times as asking.

He suggested that the diplomatic protests were intended, in part, to force Hu to give some clue about China’s intentions, the paper said.

"It will ensure that the issue will now get ventilated at the highest levels in China," Hadley is quoted as saying, "and it will be interesting to see how it comes out."

The test demonstrated that China could destroy American spy satellites in low-earth orbit -- the very satellites that picked up the destruction of the Chinese weather satellite, the report said.

Chinese military officials have extensively studied how the United States has used satellite imagery in the Persian Gulf war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in tracking North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, The Times said.

Several senior administration officials said, according to the report, that such studies had included extensive analysis of how satellite surveillance could be used by the United States in case of a crisis over Taiwan.
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