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The United States Worried About Losing Its Dominance of Space: Threatening to Destroy E.U. Satellite


[Editor’s note: The article below is translated from an article published on People’s Daily, official media of the Chinese Communist Party, on November 29, 2004, reflecting the views of the Chinese government on GPS technology.]

According to the October 24 [2004] issue of (American) Business Week, the U.S. military has drafted a detailed operation plan, "when necessary," to destroy satellites of the Galileo global satellite navigation system of European Union. After publication, it immediately drew high attention from all over the world. AFP, Reuters, the British Financial Times and the U.S. Washington Post re-published the news. The BBC even had a feature report on this issue, analyzing how the United States would handle the satellites of the Galileo system. Several media said that the act by the United States thickened the smell of the gunpowder in the air space.

Repeatedly Threatens to Attack

Business Week reported that after long time preparation, U.S. Air Force released a confidential document last August. Under Secretary of U.S. Air Force Peter Teets was one of its authors. In the document, he first asked: "What will we do ten years from now when American lives are put at risk because an adversary chooses the Galileo constellation, such a Global Positioning System, to attack American forces with precision?" He himself answered the question by saying that the "most wise" way for the United States is to attack satellites of the system.

This is not the first time that the United States threatened to attack satellites of the Galileo system. Business Week also revealed that previously U.S. and European officials held a special meeting in London to discuss the issue about the Galileo system. At the conference, U.S. officials requested the European side to make a concession of "not damaging American interests," but were refused. They had a heated argument. U.S. representatives threatened to destroy the Galileo satellite positioning system when necessary. Upon hearing these words, European representatives rebutted in anger that if the Galileo system will be used for the military or for a war against the United States by some countries, Europe will not turn off or jam satellite signals. A senior official who attended the meeting revealed that, after listening to European representatives’ hard-line position, U.S. representatives reacted "cool-headed," yet implied that the United States has made a plan to handle satellites that may pose a threat to U.S. interest in the future.

Our reporter interviewed Sanches, spokesperson for Galileo program of the European Commission about the report of the U. S. threats to satellites of the Galileo system. He stated that if there were people in the United States threatening such, it would be "unwise" and "such opinion would not be worthy of any comment by the European Union." Specifically he told the reporter that the United States always had reservations about the cooperation between Europe and China in this field. However, related parties have signed agreements. "It seemed to make no sense in further commenting."
Why It Fears the Galileo

Why did the United States threaten to attack European satellites? The United States worried that, when the Galileo system starts to operate, the United States would lose its dominance of space.

In 1973, the United States started to develop the Global Positioning System (GPS). Having continuously improved the system for 20 years at the cost of US$20 billion, it finally was completed in 1994. The GPS consists of 24 satellites that orbit about 17,000 km above the earth. By using signals transmitted from the satellites, receivers on the ground may position their own locations and precisely discover a target. For military purposes, the GPS can navigate military aircraft, ships and missiles as well as locking up targets of attack. For civilian purposes, it can navigate airplanes, vessels, and motor vehicles. Today countries around the world use the GPS and the United States has made a huge profit. However, to prevent the military in "some countries" from utilizing the GPS to threaten the United States, it provides satellite signals of lower precision to other countries and the most precise satellite signals to its own military. In doing so, the United States is able to get the precise position of any object on earth while other countries can only have a "rough idea." Worse still, the United State can, if needed, disrupt signals transmitting to certain countries to paralyze the aircraft and vessels of these countries.

E.U.’s Galileo satellite positioning system poses a challenge to America’s "dominance of space." Europe proposed the Galileo program in 1999. It prepared to invest 3.6 billion euros and to launch 30 satellites into space at an altitude of 24,000 km as the Galileo satellite positioning system. E.U. pointed out that the said system would mostly be used for civilian purposes to provide precise positioning service with error range of 1 meter. In comparison with the American GPS, the Galileo system is more advanced and more reliable. The signals that the United States provides to other countries could discover an object of only about 10 meters long on the ground. However, Galileo could find an object of one meter long. A military expert made a vivid analogy that the GPS can find a street while the Galileo can find a door of a house. If Galileo is to be used for military purposes, it would mean that other countries would be equipped with a "far-sighted eye" that only the United States currently has it. The Business Week article believed the reason why the United States threatened to destroy the Galileo satellites is to a large extent "targeting China." Not long before the United States made the threat, China and European Union held a ceremony to sign the technology agreement for the Galileo program that allowed the cooperation of both parties to enter the critical operation stage. China is the first non-E.U. country that has participated in the Galileo program and China will have a 20 percent ownership of the system and full rights to use it. At a press conference held by Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry on October 26, a reporter raised the Business Week article. Zhang Qiyue, Spokesperson of Foreign Ministry, said that Galileo cooperation between China and Europe is completely for the purposes of civilian navigation technology and industry. There is no intent to target a third party in the cooperation between China and Europe. It is absurd and ridiculous that some reports or some people said that this cooperation would be devoted to military uses. "I would like to advise certain people to give up this cold war ideology," Zhang added.
The United States Does Not Just Talk

In the early morning on October 26, British Broadcast Company carried a complete report on the threat by the United States. An expert said that it is not totally impossible for the United States to "destroy the satellites" as it threatened. In fact, U.S. military has already started preparation for a real-time operation in order to "cope with a threat from outer space."

According to U.S. media, soon after U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld took office, he received a report from a confidential committee in the Pentagon. This committee is specifically responsible for the study of "the threat from outer space." Not long ago, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency made a highly classified proposal for weapon development, which started the process of "weapons entering the space." In the proposal, the Missile Defense Agency requested Congress to allocate $ 68 million in 2005 for the development of a satellite with offensive capabilities.

Then, how does the United States deal with the Galileo satellites? A British military expert thought that the "direct attack" would be the most effective measure for the U.S. military. According to U.S. media, U.S. Air Force is developing various space weapons. The "space bomber" draws most attention. It can fly beyond the atmosphere and launch missiles from 96 km above ground to attack enemy satellites. Moreover, the U.S. military is also developing anti-satellite missiles and space laser weapons. At the same time, the U.S. military has built space war troops, established a new "star war school" under the Air Force Command and set up two new troops for the attack and defense in a space war, respectively. U.S. military "space war" exercise has been carried out frequently. As early as 3 years ago, the U.S. military had held a five-day space war exercise titled "Schriever 2001," which brought back memories of the demonic "star war project" in the cold war. Since then, the U.S. military has carried on such space war exercise several times.

European Countries Will Not Compromise

Most European media held that European Union would not give in to U.S. threats. Firstly, this is European Union’s own need. At the launch of the Galileo program, Prodi, President of European Union Commission remarked that this is a matter of the future of Europe, a struggle between monopoly and anti-monopoly and a diplomatic struggle involving political, economic, military, and national interests. It brought back to the Europeans the pride no less than that of Airbus and Ariane rocket. French President Chirac refuted the United States that to give up the Galileo program would mean "to accept the present pitiful situation of a subordinate to the United States in the space sector." Nowadays, not only did the original 15 member countries of European Union but also the 10 countries that recently joined European Union participate in the development of Galileo system.
Secondly, this is also the need of a lot of non-E.U. countries. Business Week believed that it is also possible for countries like Russia, Israel and others to join this program after China. A European scholar said that, taking China as an example, the overwhelming majority of its satellite navigation application is set up on the U.S. GPS. Once there is a war, the United States would turn off the application to China and consequence would be beyond prediction. Therefore, a big country such as China must have multiple satellite navigation systems.

Regarding this issue, the Business Week editorial warned that competition between Galileo and the GPS would cause the international community to have a new political split just as the Iraqi war, which would divide the international political arena into two big camps of pro-U.S. and anti-U.S. "In front of the conflict, all countries cannot help express their stance," said Business Week.