US exploring potential space force hotline with China

American commander says US Space Force has had discussions to prevent crises beyond Earth's atmosphere

Buckley Space Force Base in Colorado. Sentinel Colorado / AP
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The US Space Force has had internal discussions about setting up a hotline with China to prevent crises in space, Gen Chance Saltzman told Reuters on Monday.

The chief of space operations said a direct line of communication between the space force and its Chinese counterpart would be valuable in de-escalating tension but that the US had not yet engaged with China to establish one.

“What we have talked about on the US side at least is opening up a line of communication to make sure that if there is a crisis, we know who we can contact,” Gen Saltzman said.

He added that it would be up to President Joe Biden and the State Department to take the lead on such discussions.

The comments come as the US Space Force looks into establishing a branch in Japan, China's military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific continue to unnerve its neighbours and the war in Ukraine highlights the importance of space capabilities in warfare.

Japan has been especially concerned about Taiwan and any lessons China may have drawn from Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has not renounced the use of force to bring the island under Beijing's control.

Gen Saltzman, who held talks with top Japanese defence officials in Tokyo on Monday, confirmed that the space force was exploring the potential establishment of a local headquarters in Japan.

He did not elaborate on the location or the purpose it would serve, but did say it could look similar to a branch established in South Korea in November last year.

Gen Saltzman added that deeper co-operation with like-minded countries including Japan would be crucial in being able to monitor and understand activity in the space domain to deter China and counter “grey zone activities” such as jamming satellite signals.

“We have to be able to have those indications and warnings and see what they're doing and call them on the intent. Just being hypersensitive so we don't fall prey to grey zone activities,” he said.

The US Space Force, founded in 2019, also lacks a direct line of communication with its Russian counterpart.

Updated: September 25, 2023, 6:56 PM