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Fumio Ota

【#444】U.S Alert to China’s Space Program and Maritime Militia

Fumio Ota / 2017.06.14 (Wed)

June 12, 2017

     On June 6, the U.S. Defense Department published an annual report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017.” Many foreign media took up China’s space development to which the Pentagon report paid attention. Combined with “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” that was submitted by the director of national intelligence to Senate committees and used about two of its 28 pages to cover Russian and Chinese military use of outer space, the Pentagon report indicates how seriously the United States is alert to China’s space development.

Foreign media pay attention to space development
     Foreign media headlines on China’s space development just after the release of the Pentagon report included “China's quantum satellite (for secure communications) was ‘notable advance’” (Reuters, June 6), “China making preliminary preparations for manned lunar mission” (Reuters, June 8), “How SpaceX Launched a Chinese Experiment Into Space, Despite U.S. Ban” (Foreign Policy, June 7) and “Can China’s spaceplane give it the edge against U.S. in space race?” (South China Morning Post, June 8).
     The annual Pentagon report remarkably includes two pages (pp.34-35) to discuss the Strategic Support Force (SSF) that has been created within the People’s Liberation Army to oversee space and cyber warfare capabilities.
     Noting that China in 2016 launched 22 space launch vehicles (SLVs) of which 21 were successful, the report cites the Long March rocket, the world’s first quantum science satellite and a crewed space laboratory. “The laboratory will validate technologies associated with space station assembly in preparation for the launch of the Chinese Space Station core module around 2018,” the report says.
     As for counterspace technologies, the report warns that China is promoting research and development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers to “blind and deafen the enemy.”
     Regarding cyber field, the report notes that the PLA combines cyber capabilities into one organization (SSF) for unifying leadership and centralizing the management of cyber resources.
     In outer space and cyberspace warfare, the offensive side has a dominant advantage over the defensive side. Can Japan conduct such new warfare with its “Exclusively Defense-Oriented Policy”?

“Maritime militia” taken up for 1st time
     The National Interest on June 7 carried an online report headlined “New Pentagon China Report Highlights the Rise of Beijing's Maritime Militia.” The Pentagon report includes two columns (pp.12 and 56) on the maritime militia that has been put into the South China Sea to take part in China’s coercive actions.
     Given that more than 100 armed Chinese fishing boats gathered around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in 1978 and that some 230 fishing boats were seen there in August 2016, the rise of the Chinese maritime militia is not someone else’s affair for Japan.
     How will the Japanese government respond if the Trump administration revives the Constellation Program for space development to treat high-technology outer space and cyberspace threats and asks Japan to treat the low-technology maritime militia? The Constellation Program was funded under the Bush administration and suspended under the Obama administration.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.