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China building space missiles and lasers to ‘blind’ US satellites, intel report says

Laser weapons development by 2023 (US Army/Released)
April 14, 2021

China is advancing its counter space weapons capabilities and preparing its military to use weapons ranging from disruptive lasers to anti-satellite missiles that could destroy U.S. satellites.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) highlighted China’s growing anti-satellite weapons (ASAT weapons) in its Annual Threat Assessment report for 2021 released Friday.

The annual ODNI report assesses security threats to the U.S., ranging from transnational issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, to organized criminal and terror organizations, to nation-state competitors to the U.S. like Russia and China.

The foreword of the report states, “China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas—especially economically, militarily, and technologically—and is pushing to change global norms.”

China is increasingly becoming a near-peer competitor to the U.S. and stands out as the “primary strategic competitor” to the U.S. according to the new intelligence report.

Describing China’s space weapons, the ODNI report states, “Beijing continues to train its military space elements and field new destructive and nondestructive ground- and space-based antisatellite (ASAT) weapons.”

The Pentagon has already identified China’s growing ASAT weapons capabilities. A 2019 Pentagon report states, “Multiple attack options—cyber, electronic, or directed-energy weapons; anti-satellite missiles; or space-based weapons—enable potential adversaries to achieve a range of damaging effects.”

The portion of the report continues, stating, “China has already fielded ground-based ASAT missiles intended to destroy satellites in [Low Earth Orbit] and ground-based ASAT lasers probably intended to blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors on LEO satellites.”

Broadly describing China’s strategic goals, the report states the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is continuing “whole-of-government efforts to spread China’s influence, undercut that of the United States, drive wedges between Washington and its allies and partners, and foster new international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system.”

Beyond China’s ASAT weapons, the ODNI report also raises the threat of China’s nuclear capabilities.

“Beijing will continue the most rapid expansion and platform diversification of its nuclear arsenal in its history, intending to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile during the next decade and to field a nuclear triad,” the report reads. “Beijing is not interested in arms control agreements that restrict its modernization plans and will not agree to substantive negotiations that lock in US or Russian nuclear advantages.”

The ODNI report also describes China’s growing cyber capabilities.

The report states, “China’s cyber pursuits and proliferation of related technologies increase the threats of cyber attacks against the US homeland, suppression of US web content that Beijing views as threatening to its internal ideological control, and the expansion of technology-driven authoritarianism around the world.”

The report adds that China “at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States.”