[Outlook]The race for space heats upChina has started its “long march” into space. Last week, China successfully launched its first moon probe, Chang’e 1, carried by a Long March 3A rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch of Chang’e 1 marked the end of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the beginning of the new leadership. The launch also trumpets the renaissance of the Chinese people inside and outside the country.
However, other countries aren't too happy about the launch of China’s lunar roamer. The United States and Japan in particular have maintained poker faces, but they certainly seem alert to the launch.
China has acquired key space technology, developing a manned spacecraft and a moon probe, and the two space superpowers believe that China will use space technology for military purposes. In fact, the space facility that Chang’e 1 was launched from is the same place where China test-launched an ASAT missile in January.
China has acquired technology which carries military significance by blasting off its moon roamer after developing a manned spacecraft. Rocket technology developed for the launch can be used to increase the size and accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The byproducts of space technology include more developed satellite systems and enhanced communication technology, both of which can be used to paralyze the communication systems of a rival country. Furthermore, space technology is crucial to expanding available areas for surveillance around the Earth’s orbit. So, it is the General Armament Department of the People’s Liberation Army of China that leads space technology.
The United States is concerned that China will acquire space military technology and thus neutralize the U.S.-led missile defense and surveillance satellite systems. Washing-ton also believes that China will eventually become a space superpower, making it another rival in commercial areas related to space development. China has a success rate of more than 90 percent in launching commercial satellites, and it is emerging as a strong competitor of the United States. But what worries the United States most is the development of space weapons and the possible threat of space warfare in the future.
Japan has also focused on establishing an information and surveillance system, using satellites, in preparation for China’s space warfare.
As a result, Japan has two optical satellites and two radar satellites for monitoring any part of the globe around the clock. India also announced its plan to set up an aerospace command, to prepare for China’s space warfare. Space is turning to the fourth zone for warfare, after land, ocean and air.
The Chinese leadership thinks that the United States can be the sole superpower because it boasts military power based on space technology and technology for gathering and analyzing information. Thus, China’s interest in space warfare is expected to increase, unless the country gives up its ambitions to become a superpower. The People’s Daily, an organ for the Communist Party of China, wrote that no country in the world would develop space technology to be used only in the private sector and that if a country does not want to be controlled by another, it must display its space technology and its power.
We, Koreans, also should not allow ourselves simply to envy China’s launch of a lunar probe. We need to prepare for the space race which is taking place among our neighboring countries. The key to national security in the future is to take control of space.
Apart from advances in science and technology and the ensuing economic gains, space development is important for national security. The Korean people should be aware of the issues involved and government policy for space development must be drawn up.
The presidential candidates should also hold firm convictions about space development and present their visions clearly. This is an important moment for Korea to start its own long march towards space development.
*The writer is a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Byung-kwang