Academic journal article Asian Perspective

A Collaborative China-US Approach to Space Security

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

A Collaborative China-US Approach to Space Security

Article excerpt

China and the United States have developed a complex relationship. Facing common threats such as missile proliferation and regional instability, they tend to collaborate for mutual benefit. However, the two countries have hedged against each other for their respective national interests, often acting so as to reinforce each other's negative security perceptions. Their security dynamism in missile defense and antisatellite (ASAT) operations has furthered their mutual distrust. This article addresses their security dilemmas by suggesting that China and the United States take a more trusting view of each other's missile defense program, whether at the research and development stage or at deployment. They must develop such systems in an approach of mutual reassurance, allowing a degree of reciprocal vulnerability in order to avoid an arms race. An interim partial space security arrangement is also proposed here, namely, a limited ASAT ban for satellite security in outer space, to soothe respective security concerns and meet each country's present need. KEYWORDS: space security, China-US relations, missile defense, ASAT weapons.

SPACE SECURITY IS INCREASINGLY BECOMING A TOP INTERNATIONAL SECUrity issue. Outer space, along with maritime space, airspace, and cyberspace, constitutes a key domain of the global commons: no one owns it exclusively but everyone has a stake in it (Denmark andMulvenon 2010; NATO 2010). Space security, therefore, has great relevance to national security and interstate relations.

Space security is a natural extension of ground-based security. Human beings have extended their activities to space, where they both cooperate and compete. Civilian space programs offer opportunities to understand the Earth and other celestial bodies, and to improve the well-being of all Earth-based species. "Space security" therefore refers to the security to conduct such activities, and to ensure that these activities themselves may be carried out securely.1

In the military domain, in particular, space security implies a need to avoid dangerous interaction between objects and programs in space, as well as to protect these objects and programs from external attacks. Ever since the first manned space flights, space-based military programs have been a crucial part of human endeavor. Spacebased reconnaissance has been launched and implemented by a number of countries. Even though these programs may be claimed to be peaceful, they may also be designed for military intelligence rather than merely for civilian utilities.

This article addresses the management of China-US relations in space, in the hope of avoiding space rivalry between the two countries. 2 The United States is the major space power, with first-rate civilian space programs and a robust military space program.3 However, such strength to defend and, in a time of need, to act more than defensively could possibly stimulate other countries to conceive of it as a source of their insecurity, and impel them to launch their own space programs with dual or multiple aims.

The Problem Posed by US Missile Defense Programs

The United States under Ronald Reagan built its Star Wars program to intercept any incoming Soviet missiles during their boost phase, mid-course flight, and reentry phases (American Physical Society 2003; Jones 2000). This in turn pressured the Soviets to take countermeasures-expanding their nuclear missile arsenal and improving penetration aids at the terminal stage of reentry. These measures exacerbated the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers.

Despite the demise of the Soviet Union, the US missile defense programs continue. President George H.W. Bush made a short-lived proposal of Global Protection against Limited Strikes (GPALS), which was followed by President Bill Clinton's three-phase architecture of a national missile defense (NMD) system. President GeorgeW. Bush scrapped the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty to allow for the NMD program (Gronlund,Wright, Lewis, and Coyle 2004). …

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