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Asian Perspective 35 (2011), 497-501 Building Security in Space: A Brief Introduction Peter Van Ness In early April 2011 we convened an international workshop at the University of Hawaii titled “Avoiding an Arms Race in Space.” The idea was to bring space scientists from the United States and China together with international relations specialists to identify common ground for a code of conduct on building security in space. Our objective was to maintain outer space as a global commons for all the world’s people to enjoy. This was perhaps the first meeting of its kind. The articles published in this special issue are written by the Chinese and US participants in the workshop, with the exception of Shenyan Chen, who did not participate because she could not get a US visa in time, but wanted to contribute her article on space debris. We began with the following proposition: An arms race in space among the major powers would be immensely dangerous, destabiliz­ ing, and expensive. Russia, which has a long history in space tech­ nology dating back to Sputnik in 1957, does not today have the resources or the political will to sustain such a race. But China does. This is principally an issue between the United States and China. It is in the interests of both the United States and the People’s Republic of China—and the world!—that the weaponization of space be stopped. All of us are beneficiaries of the many services provided by the satellites orbiting in space. Modem society, as we know it, would not be possible without the space satellites that we have become depend­ ent on for telecommunications, banking and other commercial trans­ actions, the Internet, meteorology, and navigation. The military depends on space satellites for command and control, targeting of weapons, and intelligence gathering; since 2007, China and the United States have both tested antisatellite (ASAT) weapons. In that sense, space has already been militarized. But it is not yet weaponized: there are not yet any space-based weapons. There are now more than 960 operating satellites orbiting the 497 498 Building Security in Space earth. As of May 2011, 443 were from the United States, 101 were from Russia, and 69 were from China. The US satellites were cate­ gorized as 10 civil, 194 commercial, 118 government, and 121 mili­ tary. Complicating the picture and endangering the functioning of these satellites is space debris. More than twenty thousand pieces of space debris of varying sizes are orbiting the earth, many of them too small to track, and they are a serious danger to the operating satel­ lites. For example, in April 2011, and not for the first time, the Inter­ national Space Station had to maneuver to stay a safe distance from a piece of orbital debris. The US-China Joint Statement, published during PRC president Hu Jintao’s official visit to the United States in January 2011, called for bilateral cooperation in many fields, including space. When Pres­ ident Barack Obama announced a New National Space Policy in June 2010 he called for “peaceful cooperation and collaboration in space,” and invited arms-control proposals to make that happen. China has also urged cooperation, insisting that China would not participate in any kind of arms race in space. More recently, the US deputy assis­ tant secretary of defense for space policy, Gregory Schulte, said that the United States wanted to establish a regular dialogue with China on outer space in order to create “rules for the road” and avoid misun­ derstandings between the two countries. In June 2011 The Economist magazine declared “The End of the Space Age,” and in July 2011 Atlantis, the last of five NASA space shuttles, made its final trip to the International Space Station and safely returned to Earth. Yet the space race continues. Both the US and Chinese militaries are pressing forward with plans for space weapons, and commercial firms are competing to put people in space. China plans to launch its own space station by 2015, and is inviting scien­ tists from all countries to participate in its experimental research, while Russia, India, and other spacefaring nations have announced new space...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2288-2871
Print ISSN
0258-9184
Pages
pp. 497-501
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-22
Open Access
No
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