WikiLeaks reveals secret 'star wars' with US

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 February, 2011, 12:00am

China's anti-satellite missile test in January 2007 provoked secret 'star wars' with the United States, with Washington even warning that it could take military action against Beijing, according to US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Documents released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday said the war began on January 11, 2007 when Beijing shocked the White House by shooting down a mainland weather satellite 850 kilometres above the earth.

The US claimed it resulted in more than 2,500 pieces of debris orbiting the earth, and Washington feared China had the power to cause chaos by destroying US military and civilian satellites.

But Beijing refused to 'adequately explain' its test for nearly 12 months, despite US efforts to raise questions and concerns through diplomatic and military channels, the documents said.

In a cable from then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to US embassies in Europe, Japan and Russia in 2008, the US told China 'any purposeful interference with the US space system will be interpreted by the US as an infringement of its rights and considered an escalation in a crisis or conflict'.

'The US reserves the right, consistent with the UN Charter and international law, to defend and protect its space systems with a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military,' the Americans warned Beijing.

It said the US had asked its allies, including Britain, Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea to increase diplomatic pressure over the test.

A month later, the US launched a test strike to destroy a malfunctioning American satellite. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing was alerted before the test, said another document.

It said the US test was aimed at preventing potential harm caused by the satellite's re-entry to the earth, and had no military motivation.

But the document said the White House had warned Beijing that 'China should not use the US satellite-interception event as an excuse to conduct further anti-satellite tests', which displeased the Foreign Ministry.

Citing a Chinese general, the document said the US test had proved that the 'US missile defence system is also an offensive system'.

Another Department of State cable issued last year said China launched a second missile test in January, targeting a missile at 250 kilometres above the earth. The US believes that to be another test of space weapons, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported.

The Obama administration protested to Beijing, citing relevant Bush administration policies were still valid. A month later, a US 'laser plane' shot down a missile, the newspaper reported.