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Chinese Star Wars
Charles R. Smith
Friday, Nov. 14, 2003
Chinese Space Program Geared for Combat


Despite the propaganda from Beijing, the ambitious Chinese space program is designed for war. The Chinese army launch of a Long March 2D rocket on Nov. 3 carried an FSW-18 photo-image reconnaissance satellite into orbit. The PLA space launch is the third in less than a month, indicating an upsurge in Chinese military capability.

According to the official Chinese press organ, Xinhau, the FSW-18 satellite is carrying "scientific research, land surveying, mapping and other scientific experiments." The Chinese press reports that the satellite is also carrying samples of seeds that are to be irradiated in space in the hopes that they will produce better crops.

The only seeds onboard FSW-18 are the seeds of war. FSW-18 is actually a People's Liberation Army (PLA) military film photographic satellite. The FSW-18 is currently photographing U.S. and allied military targets in Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The FSW-18 satellite is expected to remain in orbit for two weeks taking pictures of U.S. military sites and then return the film to China by a remote-controlled re-entry capsule.

The Chinese military is expected to share the space images with its allies, including North Korea. In fact, North Korea needs the images in order to re-target long-range SCUD and No Dong missiles against recently re-deployed U.S. forces in South Korea.


Pyongyang also will be very interested in the firing positions of new long-range South Korean missiles recently moved to the DMZ, which divides the two nations. The South Korean Tactical Missile System Block 1A missiles have a range of 186 miles.

Shenzhou V Spy Satellite

The recoverable FSW-18 spacecraft joins the Shenzhou V orbit module that remained in space after the recent Chinese manned mission. The unmanned Shenzhou V spacecraft is equipped with two high-resolution digital infrared cameras.

The Shenzhou orbit module is currently imaging cities and military installations inside the United States. The images will provide target-mapping data for the Chinese army’s long-range nuclear missile force.

Unlike the film recovery system on the FSW-18 spacecraft, the Shenzhou images are returned to earth by encrypted digital radio signals.

Ironically, the Chinese army is all too familiar with satellite image processing and encrypted satellite communications technology, thanks mainly to the United States.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce documents show the Chinese satellite "remote sensing center" was supplied with "world class remote sensing data acquisition, processing, archive and distribution" equipment. The state-of-the-art satellite equipment was provided by Hughes Corp.

According to the 1997 Commerce Department report, the Clinton administration also gave the Chinese "fine images of rural China and Beijing as well as Siberian port cities, Seoul and Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa."

In 1997, U.S. Commerce Department officials at the American Embassy in Beijing wrote that the Chinese obtained satellite images in order to "help demonstrate that Tibet has enough arable land to feed itself."

The heartfelt concern for Tibet by the communist government is a touching piece of propaganda. However, the Chinese were not the only ones seeking high-resolution U.S. space photographs.

According to the same 1997 document, Commerce officials "were told that two North Koreans visited the station some time ago but did not buy any [satellite] imagery. The North Koreans do not have any significant earth resources satellite utilization capability."

Military Space for Sale

The current Shenzhou secure image transmissions of U.S. target cities are a direct result of the U.S. high-tech sales to the Chinese army.

Exports of encrypted satellite communications technology was de-controlled by President Clinton in 1996, removing the State and Defense departments’ oversight of such high-tech exports. The Clinton executive order was supported by the CEOs of Lockheed, Loral and Hughes, and it allowed China to purchase sophisticated encryption for its military satellite systems.

According to a Hughes document sent in March 1995 to Clinton National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, satellite encryption "has no military significance."

The Hughes document concluded that control over the export of a wide range of advanced U.S. satellite technology should be moved to the Commerce Department. The U.S. technology sent by Clinton to China included the entire list of items sought by Hughes: anti-jam capability, advanced antennas, cross links, baseband processing, encryption devices, radiation hardening, and perigee kick motors.

In fact, the CEOs of Hughes, Loral and Lockheed co-wrote a letter to Bill Clinton in October 1995 expressing their desire that the president "transfer all responsibility for commercial satellite export licensing to the Commerce Department."

The 1995 letter, signed by C. Michael Armstrong of Hughes, Bernard Schwartz of Loral and Daniel Tellep of Lockheed, states that "we understand you may soon be issuing an Executive Order intended to make further improvements to the process for reviewing export license applications."


"During a recent meeting involving Vice President Gore and representatives of the satellite industry discussing national/global information infrastructure, this was one of several issues raised. We clearly appreciate your administration's strong commitment to reforming the U.S. export control system, but we respectfully request your personal support for establishing the Commerce Department's jurisdiction over the export of all commercial communications satellites," states the letter from the three CEOs.

Clinton Red Space Legacy

Thanks to Clinton, Armstrong, Schwartz and Tellep, the new PLA secure encrypted space communications systems will again be demonstrated before the end of 2003. The Chinese army is expected to launch a Feng Ho military communications satellite from the Xichang space launch facility before the end of the year.

The Feng Ho satellite will provide the PLA with real-time secure communications for its military forces along the Yalu River close to North Korea and in the seas surrounding Taiwan.
 
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