Beijing Reports Successful ‘Defensive’ Missile Test

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 12, 2010

(by Bill Gertz, WashingtonTimes.com) – China conducted a successful test Monday of a missile-defense interceptor, revealing for the first time its development of an anti-missile system, something Beijing has criticized the United States for doing.

The Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency stated in a three-sentence dispatch that the test of “ground-based, midcourse missile interception technology” was carried out “within its territory.”

“The test has achieved the expected objective,” the report said, noting that it was “defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.” No other details of the test were released.

Rick Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military, said the announcement of the missile-defense test was unusual since China conducts missile tests on a weekly basis but rarely publicizes them. …

In recent days, Beijing has stepped up rhetoric denouncing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, including Raytheon Co.’s sale of Patriot missile-defense systems.

China’s government also has frequently criticized U.S. missile-defense development and, along with Russia, has sought to restrict missile defenses in United Nations forums.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a U.N. disarmament conference in August that “countries should neither develop missile-defense systems that undermine global strategic stability nor deploy weapons in outer space.”

Mr. Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said a recent published report by a senior Chinese military officer outlining China’s aerospace doctrine made clear that “the air force will be developing a missile-defense mission.” The missile-defense program is part of a military unit called Second Artillery Corps.

Mr. Fisher, who has written reports on Chinese missile defenses, said he thinks China will deploy a substantial nationwide missile-defense system by the mid-2020s.

“This will constitute the ultimate irony and face slap given China’s very loud and vocal opposition to U.S. missile defenses in late 1990s and early this decade,” Mr. Fisher said.

Asked about China’s test and its past opposition to U.S. missile defenses, Chinese Embassy spokeswoman Xi Yanchun repeated that “so far, I know that the test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.”

Mark Stokes, a former Air Force officer and specialist on the Chinese military, said China has been investing resources for missile-defense technologies and ground-based space surveillance since the late 1980s.

“It’s unclear how sophisticated the test was or what was used as a target,” said Mr. Stokes, with Project 2049 Institute, a research group.

However, he noted that “there’s likely a linkage between China’s anti-satellite and missile-defense interceptor programs” because both use similar technology. …

In January 2007, China fired a ground-based missile into space and successfully destroyed a weather satellite. This anti-satellite system, which remains couched in secrecy, could be adapted by China for a nationwide anti-ballistic-missile system, Mr. Fisher said.

The Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress on China’s military, released last spring, made no mention of Beijing’s development of missile defenses, despite providing details on an array of new Chinese weapons, including missiles, submarines, aircraft and cyberwarfare capabilities.

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Copyright 2009 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.

Questions

1. What is unusual about China’s successful test of a missile-defense interceptor this week?

2. How has the Chinese government reacted to U.S. missile-defense development?

3. a) Who is Rick Fisher?
b) What does Mr. Fisher believe is China’s ultimate missile-defense goal?

4. What information was not in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China’s military?

5. The U.S. does not have a missile-defense system in place.  Liberals generally believe we do not need one.  Conservatives believe we do. 
a)  What do you think?  Does the U.S. need/should we have a missile defense system?  Explain your answer.
b)  How should China’s plans for a nationwide missile-defense system affect a U.S. missile-defense system?  Explain your answer.
c)  Ask a parent the same question.


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Background

China just successfully tested a missile-defense interceptor, or anti-ballistic missile.  From wikipedia:

  • National missile defense (NMD) as a generic term is a type of missile defense: a military strategy and associated systems to shield an entire country against incoming Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) or alternately more short-range ballistic missiles. The missiles could be intercepted by anti-ballistic missiles, or possibly by lasers. They could be intercepted near the launch point (boost phase), during flight through space (mid-course phase), or during atmospheric descent (terminal phase).
  • Missile defense is a system, weapon, or technology involved in the detection, tracking, interception and destruction of attacking missiles. Originally conceived as a defense against nuclear-armed ICBMs, its application has broadened to include shorter-ranged non-nuclear tactical and theater missiles.
  • an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a missile designed to counter ballistic missiles (a missile for missile defense). A ballistic missile is used to deliver nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional warheads in a ballistic flight trajectory. The term “anti-ballistic missile” describes any antimissile system designed to counter ballistic missiles. However the term is used more commonly for ABM systems designed to counter long range, nuclear-armed Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Resources

Read about U.S. missile defense at heritage.org/33-minutes/history-of-sdi.htm.

Read about missile-defense shields in the U.S. at science.howstuffworks.com/missile-defense4.htm.