As part of its efforts to watch over America’s assets in space, the United States Space Force is looking into establishing a line of communication with China in case of an emergency in orbit. It’s not clear, however, whether or not China will pick up the line.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, U.S. commander General Chance Saltzman revealed that the youngest military branch has had internal discussions on establishing a hotline with China. “What we have talked about on the U.S. side at least is opening up a line of communication to make sure that if there is a crisis, we know who we can contact,” Saltzman told Reuters.
The Space Force is yet to reach out to China with its proposed hotline, with Saltzman adding that it would be up to President Joe Biden and the State Department to take the lead in the discussions.
The U.S. is weary of China’s increasing capabilities in space. In 2013, China became the third country ever (after the U.S. and the Soviet Union) to land on the Moon with its Chang’e-3 mission. Following its first lunar touchdown, China had two follow-up missions to the Moon and another one scheduled for launch in 2024. China also has plans to land astronauts on the Moon by the year 2030 and build a permanent base on the Moon, rivaling NASA’s Artemis program.
It may have been late to the space game but China is quickly making headway, and it now has the only other space station in low Earth orbit aside from the International Space Station. China completed the construction of its three-module Tiangong space station in November 2022, making it the third country in the world to build a space station in low Earth orbit.
The U.S. is also concerned that China is developing weapons that would take down American satellites. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense adopted a set of rules for responsible space operations, including open communication about U.S. military space activities. At the time, Lieutenant General DeAnna Burt, the deputy chief of the U.S. Space Force for operations, cyber and nuclear, said that China’s lack of transparency regarding its space activities poses a risk, SpaceNews reported.
Burt complained that, when warnings of close approaches or potential collisions are sent out by U.S. Space Command crews, China leaves them on read. “We get no response, no thank you, no have a nice day. Nothing,” Burt is quoted in SpaceNews as saying.
China also boasted about rejecting a call from the U.S. Defense Department in February after the suspected Chinese spy balloon was taken down because the U.S. had “not created the proper atmosphere” for dialogue and exchange, AP reported at the time.
The U.S. seems desperate to get China to open up about its activities in space, while China is giving the silent treatment. A space hotline could be one last attempt to open up communication lines, but China may be too far into its ways to pick up the line.
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