South Asia Center Acting Director Bharath Gopalaswamy writes for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Chinese counterspace abilities and the potential vulnerability of US space assets:

China’s 2007 antisatellite test sparked considerable debate among policy planners in the United States regarding the potential vulnerability of US space assets. Many scholars and analysts believe that, over the last decade, China has slowly but steadily invested in a wide range of counterspace capabilities that are in fact capable of posing threats to the United States and its allies. Concern focuses on two issues.

First, Chinese counterspace abilities might someday challenge US command of the commons, particularly in the area of space. This is a crucial consideration vis-à-vis Washington’s conventional military operations because space assets provide the United States enormous advantages in military surveillance and other areas. Second, certain counterspace capabilities could endanger assets that are critical to Washington’s launch-on-warning nuclear posture. An attack on such assets could lead to an inadvertent nuclear war. Relatedly, some worry that Beijing’s investments in counterspace technologies might trigger a regional arms race—in particular, Delhi might invest in such capabilities as well, heightening the risk of an inadvertent nuclear exchange between India and China.

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