China says it tested anti-satellite missile

January 24, 2007|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING -- The Chinese government publicly confirmed yesterday that it had conducted a successful test of a new anti-satellite weapon but said it had no intention of participating in a "space race."

The confirmation was made at a regular Foreign Ministry news briefing, 12 days after China used a medium-range ballistic missile to destroy one of its own weather satellites 535 miles above Earth. Several countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain and Australia, pressed Beijing to explain the test, apparently the first successful destruction of a satellite in orbit in more than 20 years.

Until now, Chinese officials declined to confirm or deny that it had occurred, despite news reports last week that quoted Bush administration officials describing the exercise in detail. Liu Jianchao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, issued the first official comment.

"This test was not directed at any country and does not constitute a threat to any country," he said. "What needs to be stressed is that China has always advocated the peaceful use of space, opposes the weaponization of space and an arms race in space. China has never participated and will never participate in any arms race in outer space."

Liu did not say why the Chinese army had conducted the test. He also did not directly address concerns that the use of a missile to shatter a satellite in a low orbit might be perceived as inconsistent with China's repeated calls to ban the use of weapons in space.

Beijing's prolonged silence about the test, which American intelligence officials said took place on Jan. 11, raised speculation about its intentions and the circumstances surrounding the test.

Yesterday, Liu denied that officials had taken too much time before speaking publicly. "China has nothing to hide," he said. "After various parties expressed concerns, we explained this test in outer space to them."

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