EDITORIAL | Russia’s anti-satellite missile test is dangerous and irresponsible


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On November 15, Russia destroyed a satellite in a missile test, spreading a huge cloud of debris, or “space debris”, into Earth orbit.

Unsurprisingly, Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible act has prompted a backlash from the international community, as even the smallest debris can cause catastrophic damage if it hits a satellite or spacecraft.

According to the United States, Russia’s missile test on November 15 generated more than 1,500 pieces of traceable debris. When a cloud of debris passed near the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts sleeping on board were forced to take refuge in a docked spacecraft for two hours.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned Russia’s actions, saying the debris “would threaten satellites and other space objects … for decades to come.”

This is the first time in 24 years that such a large amount of debris caused by the destruction of satellites is problematic. In 2007, it became a major problem when China carried out a missile test. When anti-satellite missile tests were conducted by the United States in 2008 and India in 2019, low-orbit satellites were targeted to prevent debris from lingering.

Satellites play a central role in modern military affairs, not only in communications, but also in detecting enemy missiles and aircraft and in guiding weapons to intercept them. This is why China and Russia are sparing no effort to develop anti-satellite weapons.

Meanwhile, Japan must work closely with its ally, the United States, to build a space-based deterrent capability to prevent satellites from being neutralized by China and Russia’s anti-satellite weapons. .

Russia has been wary of the US deployment of missile defense weapons in space, and it likely carried out the recent test in hopes of bringing the US to the negotiating table by demonstrating its anti-satellite capabilities.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the test was safe for space activities. He also countered that the United States was “hypocritical” for criticizing the missile test when it rejected a Russian-led proposal to prevent the militarization of space.

There is certainly a need to establish standards for the use of space.

The most urgent need, however, is the regulation of anti-satellite tests that produce large amounts of debris, such as those carried out by Russia and China.

Japan and the United States must encourage international discussions so as to ensure the security of democracies, which cannot afford to succumb to aggressive and reckless behavior by China and Russia in space.

(Read it Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese on this link.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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