China Developing 'Star Wars' Missile Defense Shield

China is developing a missile defense system in the highest layer of the atmosphere and outer space using high-end technologies like laser beams and kinetic energy intercept.

In 2007, China successfully tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon against a weather satellite, demonstrating its ability to attack satellites in low-Earth orbit. It has also been developing other kinetic and directed-energy technologies for ASAT missions like lasers, high-powered microwave, and particle beam weapons, according to a report released by the U.S. Defense Department last week.

With its manned and lunar space programs, "China is improving its ability to track and identify satellites -- a prerequisite for effective, precise counterspace operations," the report said.

The Defense Department speculates that China already has the technology to counter low-flying cruise missiles or short-range ballistic missiles. It is believed to be using Russian-made SA-20 ground-to-air missiles or its own homegrown HQ-9 long-range SAM missiles.

"China is proceeding with the research and development of a missile defense 'umbrella' consisting of kinetic energy intercept at exo-atmospheric altitudes (>80 km), as well as intercepts of ballistic missiles and other aerospace vehicles within the upper atmosphere," the report says.

In January 2007, China joined the space war by launching an interceptor missile against a superannuated weather satellite floating 859 km above the earth. In January last year, it also successfully tested a ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system, demonstrating its ability to intercept midcourse ballistic missiles at an altitude of 20 km.

Meanwhile, the U.S. obtained information at least two days before China's GMD test in January last year and notified allies like Australia, the U.K., New Zealand, and Canada of this, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported Monday.

"A classified cable from the U.S. secretary of state to diplomats in allied countries on Jan. 9 last year indicated that Washington knew details of the sensitive missile test days before the launch," the daily said. "Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA general and a researcher with the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the cable, if authentic, indicated the possibility that U.S. intelligence had reached into the heart of the Chinese government or military, or both."

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 30, 2011 11:47 KST