China is accelerating efforts for its military-led space program. It needs to refrain from actions that threaten other countries and increase transparency in its activities in order not to undermine the momentum in establishing international norms for outer space.
A Chinese probe vehicle has successfully collected soil from the moon. This makes China the third country to have done so following the United States and the former Soviet Union. Beijing said it has retrieved samples useful for the future development of lunar resources. It also aims to build a lunar base in 2030.
China’s progression is not limited to the moon. This year, the Chinese Communist Party marks the 100th anniversary of its founding, and the country plans to conduct a Mars exploration, following that of the United States, and build its own space station around 2022. It is also planning a manned probe to Mars as well as a Jupiter mission.
Regarding the purpose of its space program, China has stressed that it is intended to contribute to the peaceful use of outer space. However, such words cannot be taken on trust.
China’s national defense law, which was revised last month, stipulates that outer space is an important security area, regarding it as a domain to defend on par with the defense of territories and territorial waters. This has raised suspicion that China is trying to fence off outer space to further national interests and secure resources.
Outer space is the common property of humanity. It is not a space where those who arrive first can secure sovereignty and claim the right to do as they wish. China should bear this in mind.
One problem with China’s space program is that the real picture of it is opaque because it is two sides of the same coin as the military’s weapons development.
Modern military technology relies heavily on satellites for purposes such as operations and chain of command communications. China has increased its efforts to develop so-called killer satellites designed to destroy or disable the satellites of other countries. Beijing apparently has an ulterior motive of rapidly overturning its military inferiority to the United States by taking the lead in developing weapons in space.