Die Satellite, Die

China successfully tests an anti-satellite weapon, joining the United States and Russia in the “we can blow up satellites” club. I would suggest that a US-China outer space arms race is going to ill-serve the population of either China, the United States, or the other nations of the world. The bonanza for defense contractors is obvious, but what the world could really use is for such a race to not happen and for the current demilitarization of outer space to continue. Obviously since this is an issue, and the Bush administration is the Bush administration, it’s mishandled the issue:

Arms control experts called the test, in which the weapon destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, a troubling development that could foreshadow an antisatellite arms race. Alternatively, however, some experts speculated that it could precede a diplomatic effort by China to prod the Bush administration into negotiations on a weapons ban. . . .

White House officials said the United States and other nations, which they did not identify, had “expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese.” Despite its protest, the Bush administration has long resisted a global treaty banning such tests because it says it needs freedom of action in space.

As ever in these situation, good faith negotiations for a treaty might fail. Or a treaty might come into place and the disarmament regime it creates might crumble in the future. But then again, negotiations might succeed. The Chinese have always maintained that they want to see demilitarization, and the United States says it doesn’t want to see Chinese space weapons, so the obvious solution would be to negotiate a more rigorous treaty aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space.