China conducts new missile defense test even as US pushes for ban on space tests

China’s military has conducted a space-based missile defense interceptor test, claiming to have successfully targeted a ballistic missile in space, China’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

The test involved hitting a target missile with a high-speed interceptor missile in space, the ministry said in a statement.

“The test has achieved the intended objectives,” the statement said, adding that the test was defensive and not targeted at any country.

It was the sixth missile defense test by the Chinese and highlights Beijing’s efforts to develop missile defenses despite frequent denunciations by states of US missile defense systems as destabilizing.

Few details were provided of the test which involved firing a land-based missile at a target ballistic missile.

According to Chinese state media, the missile defense test, described as a “mid-course ground intercept test”, involved the launch of a target missile tracked by ground-based early warning systems, followed by firing from an interceptor that either exploded close to the target or hit it at high speed.

Previous tests of the interceptor missile were carried out in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2021, according to state media. The missile interceptor test almost certainly involved the destruction of a simulated warhead in space and therefore likely created high-velocity floating debris.

Both China and Russia have conducted satellite and missile defense tests that create space debris. In the past, both nations have used missile defense tests to hide anti-satellite tests. Russia conducted a destructive anti-satellite (ASAT) test in November and China conducted a similar test in 2007. Both tests created thousands of pieces of debris that threaten both manned and unmanned spacecraft.

The test highlights the difficulty the Biden administration has had in seeking to use arms control agreements to limit space warfare and dangerous debris.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced in April that the United States had imposed a unilateral ban on the testing of destructive anti-satellite missiles.

“The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “The long-lived debris created by these tests now threatens satellites and other space objects that are vital to the security, economic and scientific interests of all nations, and increase the risks to astronauts in space.”

Critics say a unilateral test ban by the United States could undermine the development of missile defenses and also prevent the arming of the new Space Force. China, for its part, is rushing to develop new space weapons, warn US military officials.

China “continues to develop counterspace capabilities – including direct ascent, co-orbital, electronic warfare and directed energy capabilities – that can challenge or deny an adversary’s access and operations in the space domain during a crisis or conflict,” the Pentagon said most recently. report on Chinese states with space weapons.

The report says the Chinese are developing a mid-range “Kinetic Kill” interceptor that will be the high-altitude part of a multi-layered missile defense system.

In contrast, the new US Space Force has only one announced weapon system, an electronic jammer that can disrupt satellites.

China is also developing a “spatial information corridor” as part of its global development program known as One Belt, One Road.

China has repeatedly denounced US deployments of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea and has taken punitive financial action against Seoul for deploying the system.

The Chinese claimed that THAAD threatened to undermine the deterrent power of Beijing’s missiles.

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Post expires at 5:44am on Friday July 1st, 2022