United Press International,
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) — China's highly successful two-man space mission that ended this week will not boost the nation's military power and strategic missile program: It doesn't have to.
On the contrary, China's civilian space program that may well outstrip those of both Russia and the United States over the next decade stands on the broad and secure engineering infrastructure basis of the nation's already large and rapidly expanding military missile program.
China is now looking to missiles big and small to achieve both its long-term strategic goals on the world stage and to take care of more immediate tactical problems like how to deny the U.S. Navy sea and air superiority in the event of any localized conventional conflict with China over Taiwan.
The excellence and reliability of the Long March booster that carried taikonauts Fen Jinlong and Nie Haisheng safely into orbit on Oct. 12 bore testimony to the engineering skills and high level of quality control that now goes into China's expanding missile arsenal. And the confidence with which China's space program directors allowed the their first ever two man space launch, and only the second manned space launch in Chinese history, to be broadcast live on state television, carried a very important lesson for military analysts around the world — especially in the United States — about China's missiles: They work.
That is no small point: After all two of the last three tests of the Bush administration's high-tech, ambitious anti-ballistic missile interceptors failed because the rockets would not even ignite in the first place.
China is still decades behind the United States and Russia in the number of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and in its lack of a Multi-independently-targeted Vehicle (MIRV) technology to put several thermonuclear warheads on top of each of them. But it is catching up fast.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed his concerns about these developments Wednesday in a strikingly frank speech delivered to the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing.
The expanding reach of China's nuclear missiles was worrisome to the United States, and Washington would like China to show more transparency about it, Rumsfeld said.
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