Monday, April 16, 2007

Space Race Asia!

Sources: San Luis Obispo Tribune (AP) ; Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette

Asia has turned the clock back to the Cold least for the time being and at least for the Space Race. What formerly was merely a status symbol during the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. race to the moon has now become a matter of national security. Countries such as North Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, India, etc. have raced to remain on pace.

Currently, it appears that China is ahead in Space Race Asia, as it is the only Asian state to put astronauts into orbit. Japan looks as if it is closest to China’s pace, as it now has satellites in orbit to monitor any place on Earth, spending nearly $500 million per year on spy satellites. Japan, along with India and China have the capacity to launch their own rockets, but India, South Korea, and Malaysia all currently have operational satellites in orbit. South Korea is also close to being able to launch their own satellites, as the $277 million rocket launch site is projected to be ready next year. India is hoping to launch its moon mission this year, and spends nearly $700 million on its space program. Even North Korea has claimed to have launched a ballistic satellite, although the claim has not been verified.

China, however, is the clear-cut leader in Space Race Asia. China spends $1.2 billion, and is ready to launch a third manned mission next year. It has demonstrated its space prowess as it has knocked a satellite out of orbit. Furthermore, it is preparing to launch a satellite that will make a lunar orbit. Most importantly, China’s program has made a direct challenge to U.S. space superiority by demonstrating its capacity for anti-satellite missiles. Air Force Col. Tom Ehrhard (ret.) stated that that this is a “new and dangerous phase of Chinese foreign policy...[challenging] the internationally recognized sanctity and neutrality of the ‘commons,’ those areas like international waters, airspace, cyberspace, and space itself.” China, however, claims that she is committed to the demilitarization of space, submitting U.N. resolutions that outlaw anti-satellite and space weaponry. The U.S. has blocked such resolutions, but China has invited the U.S. back to the negotiating table.

1) Should the U.S. be involved in discussions with China to demilitarize space, given that the Chinese already have anti-satellite weaponry?
2) What are the potential ramifications of Space Race Asia on poorer/developing states such as North Korea and India? In other words, who is bearing the burden of India’s $700 million (and increasing) space budget?

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