China launches a geostationary satellite into orbit

China launched a medium-sized rocket Sunday that sent a Chinese navigation satellite into orbit as officials in Washington tried to head off China’s growing missile arsenal and space capabilities. The Geostationary Navigation and Timing…

China launches a geostationary satellite into orbit

China launched a medium-sized rocket Sunday that sent a Chinese navigation satellite into orbit as officials in Washington tried to head off China’s growing missile arsenal and space capabilities.

The Geostationary Navigation and Timing System 1A (GNS-1A) is the third Chinese weather satellite that the country is launching to provide continuous, real-time measurements of its weather patterns, which, in turn, could help track enemy bombers and missiles as they move toward and away from China, according to China’s defense ministry.

The launch came after officials in Washington recently tried to stop Beijing from acquiring the technology for building space weapons. The move was aimed at cutting down on China’s weapons development and boosting the Obama administration’s tense relationship with Beijing.

The launch was among other recent actions that Washington has attributed to China, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Last month, it worked with Singapore to purchase two Chinese-made F-16 fighter jets. And last month, the State Department approved China’s purchase of a further eight military aircraft that the country had attempted to purchase last year.

A spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, Col. Wu Qian, said Sunday’s launch marked “the completion of the three-stage operating life of the fifth navigation satellite of the Chinese Long March rocket series.”

U.S. officials expressed concern that China was using those kinds of systems to beef up its capabilities, including missile defense, when it comes to space.

China, the U.S. said, wants to avoid international scrutiny but has also tested whether it can place ballistic missiles into Earth orbit to strike targets hundreds of miles away, which would in theory be beyond the missile defense defenses that the U.S. uses.

“There is concern about the proliferation of China’s abilities to use space for military purposes, which are of central concern for the U.S. government and have contributed to the need for increased vigilance and clear red lines,” according to a statement by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In mid-October, an official in the U.S. Defense Department described plans to launch a probe to determine whether China has mastered certain technologies required to build a missile defense system that could intercept enemy satellites and missiles that have been launched.

Lankford told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month that U.S. defense officials wanted to avoid “spoiling our relations with a strategic competitor.”

“Clearly they’re getting more and more ambitious and our concerns are directed at them,” he said.

On Thursday, the U.S. fired a missile test into the Pacific off the coast of Kauai, the first high-powered launch to test the U.S.’s ability to shoot down ballistic missiles.

A day later, Chinese officials pledged to step up control of nuclear weapons in the region, saying their country had completed a “new stage of power buildup” and “seizing the higher skies to enable us to project our power for national defense.”

The Chinese defense ministry spokesman on Sunday repeated the statement, saying China had become stronger in all aspects of power and had deployed an arsenal of anti-aircraft missiles and missile air-defense systems along the Pacific coast.

One of the reasons for the stepped-up rhetoric and restraint of Beijing is simple, says foreign policy expert John Delury.

The “far eastern rim of the planet, if you will, is extremely important to Chinese leaders,” Delury says. “They care about and are concerned about it because they have been locked out of the contested portion of the ocean.”

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