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US move will trigger an arms race in space

By Pan Yixuan | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-30 08:16
A US Air Force's F-16 fighter lands in Amari air base in Estonia on March 26, 2015. [Photo/VCG]

Editor's note: The United States set up a new Space Command on Thursday, taking a key step toward establishing a Space Force, which President Donald Trump has been touting for more than a year. Will the US' move trigger an arms race in space? Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Pan Yixuan. Excerpts follow:

US militarizing outer space

The US has been preparing to militarize outer space ever since the 1980s when it established the Air Force Space Command, which is a component command subordinate to the US Strategic Command。

And the setting up of the new Space Command signals a major move toward realizing the US president's goal of establishing a Space Force as the seventh arm of the US Armed Forces and the 11th unified combatant command of the Pentagon.

The pursuit of an independent Space Force could be seen as the consequence of the US' unwavering focus on military development。 But the addition of another unit to the US Armed Forces is not good news for the world, because the US' single-minded pursuit of a Space Force will prompt other countries to develop their own space force and thus unwittingly trigger an arms race in outer space。

Worse, since France recently announced it will set up a space force and Japan has given similar signals, the militarization of outer space will not only become a reality but also escalate in the future.

Actually, countries realized the risk of militarization of space decades ago. Accordingly, the United Nations focused on ensuring outer space is used for peaceful purposes by, among other things, establishing the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs in 1958 and the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space in 1959, which contributed to the signing of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (or Outer Space Treaty) in 1967.

But the US' unilateral move threatens to render the treaty ineffectual and spark a space arms race. Which would be in no country's interest.

Washington sets a dangerous precedent

The US' army, navy and air force are the strongest in the world in their respective fields, and the US administration is sparing no efforts to be the leader even in cyberspace and outer space. Although the Space Force has made progress mainly on the theoretical level, and actually building such a military unit will be a tough task even for the US, the White House is determined to realize the goal of adding a seventh combat forces to the US Armed Forces-which now comprise the army, navy, air force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the cyber force.

Which leaves no doubt that the militarization of space has started and the space arms race will intensify in the future。

So far, only a few countries have the military power and advanced technologies to compete with the US in outer space. And the US has sounded the alarm for countries such as Russia and China (which the US sees as "rivals"), that have the ability and wherewithal to establish a "space force", to take precautionary measures to safeguard their national security and core national interests against Washington's contentious move.

Although the aim of the UN committees and the Outer Space Treaty is to prevent a space arms race and instead promote the peaceful use of outer space, it is hard to stop a country from using outer space to launch an attack on another country.

Furthermore, the advancement of technology will enable more countries to participate in outer space activities, which in turn could lead to the militarization of space and a proliferation in the number of satellites, spacecraft and debris in outer space. This will not only spark a space arms race but also raise the risk of the objects in outer space colliding, which will severely disrupt military and civil activities across the world and trigger new frictions between countries.

Indeed, the US has raised global security risks。

Now is the time for the international community to make concerted efforts to reach a consensus on outer space-that it should always be used for peaceful purposes, and never for military purposes。

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

  
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