Cablegate: China's Angst Over U.S. Satellite Interception
O 221012Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5272
PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
INFO CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY
NASA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T BEIJING 000647
STATE FPR EAP/CM - THORNTON AND HABJAN
STATE FOR ISN-MDSP-BUENNEKE
STATE FOR PMAT STATE FOR OES/SAT
STATE FOR NP/CBM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2018 TAGS: CH ESA ETTC KTIA NASA PNAT PREL TPHY TSPA
SUBJECT: CHINA'S ANGST OVER U.S. SATELLITE INTERCEPTION
REF: A. SECSTATE 8231 B. BEIJING 283 C. BEIJING 358 D. SECSTATE 15164 E. BEIJINJG 581 F. BEIJING 634
Classified By: DCM Daniel Piccutu for Reasons 1.5 (b) and 1.5 (d).
1.(S) Summary: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) contacts with Post regarding the wayward U.S. satellite (USA-193) focused mainly on the timely provision of technical information as to the satellite,s likely impact location and any U.S. plans to mitigate potential harm caused by the satellite,s re-entry. When the decision was made to intercept the satellite, MFA interlocutors repeatedly emphasized that the United States should provide information on the planned satellite interception prior to releasing the information to CNN. While direct discussions with MFA on the satellite issue mostly focused on the technical aspects of the situation, MFA press briefings underscored PRC reservations regarding the shoot-down, saying that the PRC was concerned about &possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer space security.8 Several academics commented that much of the PRC public and official response to the event was driven by their anger over the berating the PRC received after their January 2007 ASAT test and at the recent U.S. &rejection8 of the joint PRC-Russian proposal for a treaty to ban weapons in space. End summary.
Falling Satellite -----------------
2.(S) On January 27 (Beijing time), ESTHOFF officially passed word (Ref A) to An Gang, Division Chief, Office of American Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the inoperable satellite USA 193 would soon be re-entering the Earth,s atmosphere. Although, at the time, An Gang had no comments or questions, MFA officially responded on January 31 (Beijing time), when Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jieyi passed to Post several technical questions (Ref C) requesting more information about potential impact areas and U.S. plans to mitigate potential harm once the satellite re-entered the earth,s atmosphere.
3.(S) An Gang informed ESTHOFF that he would be China,s POC, and then asked ESTHOFF for assurance that 24-hour contact (if necessary) could be established between An and ESTHOFF on this issue. Over the next several days, An made several calls to ESTHOFF to ask for assurances that the United States would provide to China regular and timely information on the satellite,s situation as it developed. An emphasized that the Government of China was especially concerned that the satellite debris might strike Chinese territory. ESTHOFF assured An Gang that the United States would start to provide regular and timely updates once more information on the satellite re-entry became clear.
MFA: Please Tell Us Prior To CNN --------------------------------
4.(S) On February 15 (Beijing time), ESTHOFF passed An the demarche in Ref D announcing U.S. satellite-interception plans. An emphasized that China was keen to receive timely information from the United States regarding the plans for the satellite, especially prior to any information being released to the press. An also noted that the U.S. point made in the demarche that China should not use the U.S. satellite-interception event as an excuse to conduct further anti-satellite tests was unnecessary and irrelevant. An said the two events should not be linked.
5.(S) Over the next few days, An asked ESTHOFF for any information as to the date and location of the planned satellite-intercept. On February 20 (Beijing time), An called ESTOFF to say that CNN was reporting the satellite interception would take place the next day. n asked if we had any information that we could share. ESTHOFF told An that we had nothing official, but informed him of a world-wide NOTAM (Notice to Aviators and Mariners) that had been issued for the next day. An again emphasized the importance China placed in receiving notification on the result of the satellite-intercept prior to it being reported by CNN.
6.(S) On February 21 (Beijing time), Post received direct confirmation of the results of the anti-satellite test directly from PACOM, and with Admiral Keating's permission, Post immediately informed AFM Liu Jieyi. AFM Liu asked several questions which focused on receiving any information available on potential debris fields and their likely impact locations.
7.(S) On February 22 (Beijing time), ESTHOFF passed the unofficial transcript (which basically answered most of the GOC,s questions) of the DOD press briefing which took place the night before (Beijing time) in Washington D.C.
MFA Press Conferences Highlight PRC Reservations -----------------------------------
8.(U) Ref E and F coverage of recent MFA press conferences highlight official PRC reservation regarding the shoot-down. During the February 19 press briefing, spokesperson Liu Jianchao said that China was highly concerned over the action and would watch the situation closely. China "hopes that the United States will fulfill its obligations to the international community." Liu emphasized that China is "not the only country" which has expressed concern over the announcement. During the February 21 press briefing, Liu reiterated that China was closely following the "possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer space security and relevant countries" and again requested that the United States fulfill its obligations in "real earnest" and provide data so that relevant countries might take precautions.
Academics Call PRC Response Pay Back for 2007 ASAT Test ------------------------------------
9.(C) Several academics say that much of the PRC public and official response to the event is driven by their anger over the berating the PRC received after their January 2007 ASAT test. Professor Zhu Feng, Deputy Director of Peking University,s School of International Studies, said that while the PRC views the shoot-down as a &negative event,8 he believes most of the bad press is driven by the PRC to desire to &fire back.8 &These are really the same issue,8 he said, &so we are going to give you the same you gave us.8 Calling the PRC reaction &mostly emotional,8 he requested technical data confirming the satellite,s destruction so he could &make some public statements8 and try to &calm things down a little.8 (Note. Poloff sent Zhu the transcripts and web links to the 21 February Department of Defense Press Release and Press Conference. End Note.)
10.(C) Dr. Liu Qing, Deputy Director of the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), in a separate meeting, echoed Zhu,s comments, saying &You can expect China,s response will be much the same in return8 for what China received in 2007. Admitting that China shared almost no information before or after their 2007 ASAT test, Dr. Liu lauded U.S. efforts to inform the international community about U.S. plans to shoot down USA 193, saying &I think we have learned, and maybe next time, China will be more transparent.8 He also mused that this event may help gel international support for a treaty limiting the use of weapons in outer space.
11.(C) Dr. Teng Jianqun, Deputy Secretary General of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Department, took a different point of view, instead citing the U.S. &rejection8 of the 12 February joint PRC-Russian proposal for a treaty banning weapons in space as the incendiary driving PRC anger. &This shoot-down proves the U.S. missile defense system is also an offensive system,8 he said, so the shoot down has provided them an ideal opportunity to voice their objection. In a 21 February opinion paper posted on the CIIS website, Dr. Teng described the shoot-down as unnecessary and simply an opportunity to test the U.S. missile defense system.