London, Feb 3 (PTI) The US threatened to take militaryaction against China during a secret "star wars" arms race inthe past few years, according to leaked documents obtained byThe Daily Telegraph.
The two nuclear powers both shot down their ownsatellites using sophisticated missiles in separate show ofstrength, the files released by WikiLeaks suggest.
The newspaper, which published a total of 550 leakedUS embassy cables in the last three days, said the USgovernment was so incensed by Chinese actions in space that itprivately warned Beijing it would face military action if itdid not desist.
The Chinese carried out further tests as recently aslast year, leading to further protests from Hillary Clinton,the US Secretary of State, the documents reveal.
Beijing justified its actions by accusing theAmericans of developing an "offensive" laser weapon systemthat would have the capability of destroying missiles beforethey left enemy territory.
According to the newspaper, the "star wars" arms racebegan in January 2007 when China shocked the White House byshooting down one of its weather satellite, 530 miles abovethe Earth.
The strike, which resulted in thousands of pieces ofdebris orbiting the earth, raised fears that the Chinese hadthe power to cause chaos by destroying US military andcivilian satellites.
In February 2008, the US launched its own "test"strike to destroy a malfunctioning American satellite, whichdemonstrated to the Chinese it also had the capability tostrike in space.
One month before the strike, the US criticised Beijingfor launching its own "anti-satellite test", noting: "TheUnited States has not conducted an anti-satellite test since1985."
In a formal diplomatic protest, officials working forCondoleezza Rice, the then Secretary of State, told Beijing:"A Chinese attack on a satellite using a weapon launched by aballistic missile threatens to destroy space systems that theUnited States and other nations use for commerce and nationalsecurity. Destroying satellites endangers people.�
The warning said any purposeful interference with USspace systems "will be interpreted by the United States as aninfringement of its rights and considered an escalation in acrisis or conflict."
"The United States reserves the right, consistent withthe UN Charter and international law, to defend and protectits space systems with a wide range of options, fromdiplomatic to military."
The Chinese strike in 2007 was highly controversial,prompting criticism from other nations and claims that itmarked a revival of former US President Ronald Reagan''s "StarWars" programme, that was abandoned in the 1980s, thenewspaper reported in its lead story today.