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China space threat growing at ‘breathtaking pace’: Space Command chief

U.S. Space Command head Gen. Stephen Whiting said Thursday that space has become an “expanding security challenge” and warned that China is growing its military space abilities at a “breathtaking pace.”

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Whiting told lawmakers that space is “now central to all-domain security activities.”

He said the U.S. Space Command is focused on security in Earth’s orbit but also looking for “potential threats” beyond it.

“There is an urgency for our Command to advocate for delivery of new space capabilities
and capacity to retain an enduring competitive advantage,” Whiting said.

He outlined China as a major expanding threat in the space domain, saying Beijing was focused on advancing its military strength across all domains to become a major world power and world military power.

By 2030, he said, China will have reached “world-class status in all but a few space technology areas.”

Beijing is “growing its military space and counterspace capabilities at breathtaking pace to deny American and Allied space capabilities when they so choose,” Whiting said, “while extending its ability to conduct long-range fires improving the precision and reach, thus the lethality, of its terrestrial forces.”

Whiting noted that China has more than tripled its orbital presence since 2018, deploying more than 359 systems in its satellite fleet and is increasing its ability to monitor U.S. operations.

China also has a counterspace weapons programs that gives Beijing the option to damage U.S. systems and space, including space-based antisatellite weapons.

Whiting’s testimony comes after the U.S. warned last month Russia could potentially deploy a nuclear space weapon capable of attacking other satellites. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied those claims.

But Whiting said Russia “continues to pursue a suite of counterspace weaponry,” including “directed energy weapons and satellite communications jammers,” as well as offensive cyberspace weapons.

“These weapons are intended to disrupt, threaten, and destroy space targets or
otherwise deny freedom of action in space,” he said. “Russia views its counterspace capabilities as a means to deter aggression from adversaries reliant on space.”

Space has remained a threat since the Cold War, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed antisatellite weapon capabilities. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, of which both the U.S. and Russia are signatories, prohibits nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in space.

Space Command was created as its own entity in the Trump administration to focus on emerging threats in space.

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