Friday, February 22, 2008

Transparency of Satellite Shootdown Offers Model

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008 - The way the United States handled the shootdown of a dead reconnaissance satellite last night offers a model of the transparency it encourages other countries more secretive about their military operations to adopt, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said today.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating pointed to the huge difference between last night's mission, aimed at destroying a satellite hurtling toward Earth, and the secret anti-satellite weapons test the Chinese conducted in January 2007.

"We've told people what we're going to do; we've told them how we're going to do it, and it's very open," Keating said.

The rationale behind the two missions was distinctly different, as well. President Bush decided to shoot down the satellite to preclude a danger to humans from hydrazine, a toxic fuel that would have been used to steer the satellite had it worked. The Chinese test, in contrast, was designed to test an anti-satellite weapon.

To carry out its mission, the U.S. fired a modified Standard Missile 3. The Chinese, in contrast, fired a specially designed anti-satellite weapon.

Keating told reporters he hopes the Chinese will learn from the U.S. model. "We would hope that they can see how to do an operation like this, emphasizing the transparency, emphasizing clear intentions, realizing --that while we don't have press embedded on the ship -- everybody knows what's going on," he said. "The Chinese did not do that when they launched their anti-satellite test. We hope there are some lessons that become apparent to them."

U.S. defense officials have long encouraged China and other nations around the world to be more transparent about their military operations. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates encouraged more openness during his visit to China in November.

Keating visited China in January in an effort to bolster the two countries' military relationship and promote improved communication. He told Pentagon reporters in November that solid communication between the United States and China will help reduce the potential for misunderstanding. This will leave "less room for confusion that could lead to confrontation, to crisis," he said.

"That's our goal," he said. "To get there, we reduce the chance for misunderstanding."