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[] Beijing secretly fires lasers to disable US satellites

Beijing secretly fires lasers to disable US satellites

By Francis Harris in Washington
Telegraph News, September 26, 2006

China has secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable
American spy satellites by "blinding" their sensitive surveillance
devices, it was reported yesterday.

The hitherto unreported attacks have been kept secret by the Bush
administration for fear that it would damage attempts to co-opt China in
diplomatic offensives against North Korea and Iran.

Sources told the military affairs publication Defense News that there had
been a fierce internal battle within Washington over whether to make the
attacks public. In the end, the Pentagon's annual assessment of the
growing Chinese military build-up barely mentioned the threat.

"After a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to
limit its concern to one line," Defense News said.

The document said that China could blind American satellites with a
ground-based laser firing a beam of light to prevent spy photography as
they pass over China.

According to senior American officials: "China not only has the
capability, but has exercised it." American satellites like the giant
Keyhole craft have come under attack "several times" in recent years.

Although the Chinese tests do not aim to destroy American satellites, the
laser attacks could make them useless over Chinese territory.

The American military has been so alarmed by the Chinese activity that it
has begun test attacks against its own satellites to determine the
severity of the threat.

Satellites are especially vulnerable to attack because they have
predetermined orbits, allowing an enemy to know where they will appear.

"The Chinese are very strategically minded and are extremely active in
this arena. They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about
the high frontier," said one senior former Pentagon official.

There has been increasing alarm in parts of the American military
establishment over China's growing military ambitions.

Military experts have already noted that Chinese military expenditure is
increasingly designed to challenge American military pre-eminence by
investing in weaponry that can attack key systems such as aircraft
carriers and satellites.

At the same time, China is engaged in a large-scale espionage effort
against American high-tech firms working on projects such as the
multibillion-pound DD(X) destroyer programme.

Several spy rings have been cracked and the FBI is increasing the number
of counter-intelligence staff tracking the Chinese effort.

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