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China accuses US of ‘weaponizing’ space, turning it into ‘new battleground’

STS-116 Shuttle Mission Imagery Backdropped by a colorful Earth, astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr. (left) and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang, both STS-116 mission specialists, participate in the mission's first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction resumes on the International Space Station. (NASA/Released)
December 20, 2018

China lashed out at the U.S. following President Donald Trump’s directive this week to establish the U.S. Space Command.

A Chinese spokesperson said the orders will “weaponize” space, an act China opposes, France 24 reported Wednesday via AFP.

“China has consistently proposed the peaceful usage of space, and opposes the weaponization of space and a space arms race,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference.

“We oppose even further turning space into the new battleground,” she added.

Trump’s directive was signed Tuesday, officially ordering the Pentagon to establish the U.S. Space Command as the 11th combined combatant command.

“I direct the establishment, consistent with United States law, of United States Space Command as a functional Unified Combatant Command,” Trump wrote in an official White House memo to the Pentagon.

“I assign to United States Space Command: (1) all the general responsibilities of a Unified Combatant Command; (2) the space‑related responsibilities previously assigned to the Commander, United States Strategic Command; and (3) the responsibilities of Joint Force Provider and Joint Force Trainer for Space Operations Forces,” the memo added.

The U.S. Space Command is a separate division from Trump’s aspirations for a “Space Force,” which would be another branch of the military; but it could pave the way for the latter’s independent branch.

The U.S. Space Command previously existed from 1982 to 2002, but it was dissolved after its responsibilities were integrated into the U.S. Strategic Command and the Air Force.

China has been pursuing its own efforts to become a major power in the space domain.

On Dec. 8, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched a rover that is expected to land on the far side of the moon around Dec. 31. It is one of the steps in China’s plan to build a moon base by 2025.

A lunar rover has never landed on the far side of the moon, which is obscured and blocks communication signals, reported. However, China addressed the issue by launching a satellite in May that rests past the moon and will have the ability to pass along communications to the far side.

In October, a U.S. official raised concerns that the Chinese satellite could threaten U.S. satellites.

Jeff Gossel, the senior intelligence engineer in the Space and Missile Analysis Group at the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said the Chinese satellite could enable Chinese spacecraft to secretly approach U.S. satellites and launch an unexpected attack.

“You could fly some sort of a weapon around the moon and it comes back — it could literally come at [objects] in GEO… and we would never know because there is nothing watching in that direction,” he said.

Michael Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering, also pointed out the possibility in August.

“China and Russia now have the capability to go after” key intelligence and communications satellites, he explained. “Those assets are what we use for communication and reconnaissance and missile warning and position, timing and navigation, a whole bunch of features that we use for war fighting.”

China, which has tested missile capabilities against satellites, claims its space pursuits are purely defensive, spurred by the the “aggressive” space strategies of the U.S.