US President Donald Trump held an event at the White House in which US Defense Department officials unveiled the official flag of the US Space Force for the first time. Trump said the space is going to be the future both in terms of defence and offence, adding: “We’re now the leader in space.”
The flag, very much resembling the logo of China’s state-owned space industry giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, received scornful comments from Chinese netizens. Was the design a coincidence? Or was it indicating the newly established force has China in mind? Nevertheless, the US space force’s establishment and development could trigger a new arms race in the outer space. It will bring space militarisation that will threaten the whole world.
In early May, the US Space Force revealed its first recruitment video. Reports said more than 2,000 airmen have applied in just two weeks. Social network reactions show that the US Space Force has garnered considerable attention. Many of them grew up watching Hollywood movies that portray US citizens fighting in space, even against aliens. From these science fiction films, many fantasised the US Space Force could boost space technology development and contribute to humanity’s exploration of space.
This, however, will not likely become true.
During the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union’s arms race expanded to space exploration. This indeed accelerated space technology development and exploration of space. But the US slowed down the process following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Any country’s attempt to militarise space will result in changes in the international strategic balance. Other major countries will not stand by and watch. In modern warfare, information is key to victory, and space is one of the most important places to gather and transfer information. Why? Because technologies such as satellite navigation, ground observation and information transmission have become integrated parts of combat systems of major military powers. This includes nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and new hypersonic weapons that can also fly in outer space.
No major military power will accept this facing the threat that their navigation systems could fail, communications may become jammed, command systems would go blind and deaf and nuclear deterrence could run amok. But the US Space Force is becoming a reality. Countries will face huge strategic pressures and be forced to respond. They will naturally want to develop space forces of their own as a direct solution.
Following the US, Japan recently also announced the establishment of its Space Operations Squadron. It aims to track suspicious satellites and space debris to protect Japanese satellites. It also plans to cooperate with the US. If this trend continues, other countries with technological or economic strength will be tempted or forced to follow. This will result in a large scale space arms race.
In a worst-case scenario, an arms race in space might result in space militarization. This would make every person on Earth under threat of the Sword of Damocles and more terrible than nukes. Space debris created by combat in outer space could get out of control and risk colliding into civilian spacecraft, or fatally fall down to Earth killing innocents.
China has gained amazing achievements in space exploration in recent years. Its related technologies are seeing continued progress. But as the US has begun to see China as a strategic competitor and attempts to contain China in all fields, this has become a sting in the eye for the world’s most powerful country. The US has a huge advantage in space technology over China and we should continue to push forward our space programmes as scheduled.
China upholds the ideals for the peaceful use of outer space and opposes weaponising it or seeking out a celestial sprint to arms.
For many years, China, Russia and other countries have been working hard and trying to reach an international legal instrument to fundamentally prevent the weaponisation of outer space or an arms race there. This will not change. China will not want to join an arms race in space initiated by the US. But if China’s national security is at serious risk because of this, China will certainly take measures to ensure its security is not harmed. GLOBAL TIMES