U.S.-China hotline should keep space a conflict-free zone, in hopes the same would reflect on our home planet. Space, the final frontier, could easily turn in a full-fledged war zone provided one nation or the other accidentally wipes out satellites.
And China has proven it has the potential to do so. In 2007, while testing an anti-satellite weapon system, it had already blown a satellite to pieces. Since then, efforts to avoid potential space-born conflicts have been ramped up.
With the new U.S.-China hotline, Washington and Beijing now have a direct means of communication. The space hotline follows models dating back to the Cold War when similar hotlines were established between the Soviet Union and the U.S. This time, it’s about avoiding orbital mishaps that have the real potential of translating into conflicts on Earth.
Before the space hotline was established, a long row of diplomatic protocols had to be followed by both the U.S. and China. When announcing an imminent satellite collision or perhaps even a rocket test, bureaucratic hurdles are certainly getting in the way. As such, the U.S.-Chine hotline should keep space a conflict-free zone.
It might sound slightly overblown, yet the U.S.- China hotline stems from real scenarios. Consider nations with powerful space programs and agencies like the U.S., the Russian Federation or China testing their technology independently, without each knowing of the other’s moves. Defense mechanisms, anti-satellite weapons, rocket testing or both could be interpreted as an ‘invitation’ to conflict.
If an Earth-bound large scale conflict were to ensue, attacking satellites works wonders in disturbing communications grids and weakening the adversary substantially. Taking diplomacy to space is a next necessary step to prevent such mishaps from happening. Bypassing bureaucratic strains is certainly a plus.
Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, a similar model has been used when the Soviet Union and the U.S. established the ‘red telephone’. As then, the U.S.- China hotline provides an easier communication channel.
According to one U.S. assistant secretary of state, the typical diplomatic channel would have looked like this: the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the Joint Space Operations Center – the Pentagon – the State Department – U.S. Embassy Beijing. Quite a path for information to travel.
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