Space arms race inevitable says Chinese commander
An arms race in space is an "historical inevitability", a senior Chinese air force commander has warned, marking an apparent shift in Beijing's opposition to weaponising outer space.
China, which hopes to put a man on the moon by 2020, has long stated that it supported the peaceful uses of outer space and opposed the introduction of weapons there.
However Xu Qiliang, a senior Chinese air force commander, said it was imperative for the PLA air force to develop offensive and defensive operations in outer space.
"As far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space," he told the People's Liberation Army Daily in an interview to mark last month's 60th Anniversary of Communist China, "this is a historical inevitability and a development that cannot be turned back."
Although Beijing has also sought to establish an international treaty to control the deployment of weapons in space, China surprised the world in 2007 when it shot down one of its own weather satellites in a test seen by many, including the United States, as a possible trigger of an arms race in space.
"The PLA air force must establish in a timely manner the concepts of space security, space interests and space development," Mr Xu added, "We must build an outer space force that conforms with the needs of our nation's development (and) the demands of the development of the space age."
Superiority in outer space can give a nation control over war zones both on land and at sea, while also offering a strategic advantage, Xu said, noting that such dominance was necessary to safeguard the nation.
"Only power can protect peace," the 59-year-old commander added.
China is currently in the process of rapidly modernising its armed forces, investigating the construction hardware such as aircraft carriers as well as cyber warfare techniques that could paralyse enemy's command and control systems.
Last year's annual Pentagon report to the US Congress warned that Chinese militarisation was changing the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.
China, however, dismisses such talk as alarmist and says that its rise will be peaceful. China currently spends 1.4 per cent of GDP on its armed forces, compared with two per cent in Britain and France and four per cent in the United States.