Saturday, March 1, 2008

Russia & China Don't Buy Excuse For Satellite Shoot-Down

China and Russia Cry Foul Over Satellite
By David Byers
Jane Macartney
The Times

America's decision to destroy a defunct spy satellite orbiting Earth by firing a missile into outer space provoked a diplomatic row today, with both China and Russia accusing the US of having carried out a covert weapons test.

The Pentagon claimed that it had fired the missile from the Pacific Ocean to destroy the satellite - which was 133 miles above the Earth - purely because of potentially toxic hydrazine fuel on board the spacecraft which could harm humans.

However, Moscow and Beijing complained that the missile strike smacked of hypocrisy as the US had rejected a joint attempt by the two countries from banning weapons in outer space only a month ago.

A Chinese state newspaper, the People's Daily, criticized Washington for hypocrisy for rejecting a treaty to ban weapons in space proposed by Russia and China and then firing a missile at the spy satellite. Washington claims it had rejected the proposed treaty as unworkable, and said it instead favoured confidence-building efforts.

"The United States will not easily abandon its military advantage based on space technology, and it is striving to expand and fully exploit this advantage," the newspaper commentary said.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Liu Bianca, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said, tersely: "The Chinese side is continuing to closely follow the US action which may influence the security of outer space and may harm other countries."

His words were believed to have been carefully modulated to echo criticisms leveled at Beijing by the Bush Administration when China fired its own ground-based missile into an obsolete weather satellite in January 2007.

US defense officials say their case is different because Washington, unlike Beijing, informed the public and world leaders before firing their missile.

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