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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 10:52 GMT
China confirms satellite downed
Control room at Xichang Space Centre in China (file photo)
The missile was reportedly launched from near Xichang Space Centre
China has confirmed it carried out a test that destroyed a satellite, in a move that caused international alarm.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said a test had been carried out but insisted China was committed to the "peaceful development of outer space".

The US backed reports last week that China had used a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite.

A senior Taiwanese politician said he viewed it as an aggressive act.

It is the first known satellite intercept test for more than 20 years.

Several countries, including Japan, Australia and the US, have expressed concern at the test, amid worries it could trigger a space arms race.

Until Tuesday, China had refused to confirm or deny the 11 January test.

International concern

Liu Jianchao told reporters that China had notified "other parties and... the American side" of its test.

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"But China stresses that it has consistently advocated the peaceful development of outer space and it opposes the arming of space and military competition in space," he told a news conference.

"China has never, and will never, participate in any form of space arms race."

However, Dr Joseph Wu, head of the body responsible for Taiwan's relations with China, viewed it differently.

"This is an aggressive act by the Chinese side," he told the BBC on a visit to Japan.

"I don't think it's just limited to Taiwan only but of course... Taiwan stands out to be the first country that might have to suffer if a future conflict were to erupt between China and some other countries."

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to use force if the island ever moved to declare formal independence.

The US, which is committed to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, supports the status quo.

US spy satellites watch over the Taiwan Straits, and coordinating any defence against a possible Chinese invasion would be made much harder if those spy satellites were destroyed.

Debris fears

The magazine American Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that a Chinese Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite had been destroyed by an anti-satellite system launched from or near China's Xichang Space Centre on 11 January.

The test is thought to have occurred at more than 537 miles (865km) above the Earth.

The report was confirmed by US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe last Thursday.

He said at the time the US "believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area".

Japan and Australia also spoke of their fears of a possible new arms race in space.


There are already growing international concerns about China's rising military power.

While Beijing keeps its defence spending a secret, analysts say that it has grown rapidly in recent years.

China is now only the third country to shoot something down in space.

Both the US and the Soviet Union halted their tests in the 1980s over concerns that the debris they produced could harm civilian and military satellite operations.

While the US may be unhappy about China's actions, the Washington administration has recently opposed international calls to end such tests.

It revised US space policy last October to state that Washington had the right to freedom of action in space, and the US is known to be researching such "satellite-killing" weapons itself.

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