Pentagon officials and their Chinese counterparts are set to discuss how to best ensure that both nations behave in a “responsible” way in an increasingly complicated national security space environment, said Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, on Tuesday.
Noting that China’s civil and military space programs are “essentially one,” Schulte pointed to the fact that China is strategically investing in its space capabilities and weapons designed to knock out an enemies space systems as a driver behind the U.S. desire for the talks that both nations committed to in May.
“We’ve actually proposed to establish a regular dialogue with China on space,” Schulte said. “This would be part of the strategic security dialogue that was agreed to in May at the [Shangri La] security and economic dialogue with China. We’re waiting to pick the date for the first discussion but we’re ready to go in to talk about this strategy, to talk about what we think responsible use of space looks like, to talk about ways to create rules of the road and to talk about ways to reduce the risk of mishaps and miscalculations.”
Schulte spoke at a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington.
Just last week, it was revealed that China’s spy satellite can now monitor targets for six hours at a time, putting them on par with U.S. surveillance satellites. At the same time, China is making serious progress with its advanced anti-satellite systems.
“We all remember the 2007 test of the Chinese anti-satellite system, that, oh by the way, created something like 14 percent of the debris that STRATCOM is currently tracking in outer space but they’re also developing a broader range of counter space capabilities from jammers and lasers to other types of capabilities,” said Schulte, describing how the U.S.’s new National Security Space Strategy focuses on how to defend its space assets and engage with other countries in the responsible use of space.
In addition to space, the Pentagon plans to discuss cyber, nuclear weapons and missile defense as soon as Beijing and the U.S. set a date for the talks, according to Schulte.
The constant increase in the number of spacefaring nations has led to dramatically more crowded space environment, causing Pentagon officials to worry about everything from space debris damaging American satellites, to the increased militarization of space and the erosion of the strategic advantage the U.S. has enjoyed for decades.