The United States, China, and Space Security: Issues for the Trump Administration

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On January 11, 2007, China destroyed one of its aging weather satellites using a ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. In the aftermath, there were debates within the United States as to the motivation for the test, and what it meant for U.S. policy and strategy. One year later, the United States used a converted ballistic missile interceptor to destroy one of its own failed spy satellites in what was publicly stated to be an act of public safety, but many saw as a public demonstration of its own. The two events reignited international and domestic debates over strategic stability and deterrence, space weaponization, and the potential for a space arms race.

Ten years later, many of the same tensions and questions remain. The U.S. national security community is extremely concerned about the vulnerability of its space assets, and the potential for conflict on Earth to extend into space. The Department of Defense has publicly focused on a strategy of increasing the resilience of its own space capabilities to try and deter attacks, but some both inside and outside the government have advocated for a more aggressive response. Meanwhile, the publicly-available evidence indicates China has continued developing and testing ASAT weapons, while also continuing to develop its military and civil space capabilities that increase its own reliance on space. The United States and China have recently initiated a series of bilateral discussions on space security, but a recent multilateral effort to develop an International Code of Conduct for space activities has stalled, in part due to concerns over self-defense in space.

This luncheon event on Tuesday, January 17 brought together experts to discuss the evolution of the space security environment over the last decade, and specifically the evolution and current state of the relationship between the United States and China. Panelists provided contrasting views on the perceptions and tensions on both sides, and outlined potential options and strategies the Trump Administration may take going forward.

For the speaker biographies, presentations, audio recordings, and transcripts, please click here.

Last updated on January 24, 2017