Space crisis hotline with China a good idea, says Space Force commander
Stars and Stripes September 26, 2023
TOKYO — A hotline linking the United States and China to prevent a crisis in space would be valuable but is not in the works, the U.S. Space Force commander said Monday during a visit to the Japanese capital.
Gen. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations, spoke about the idea with a reporter for the Reuters news service following a press conference at the New Sanno Hotel, said Maj. Victoria Porto, an Air Force spokeswoman who was at the event.
“When asked about communications with [China], Gen. Saltzman said a line would be valuable, but that we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re having that discussion,” Porto said in an email Tuesday.
The idea has merit given the proliferation of space junk and constellations of satellites launched by companies such as Space X and Rocket Lab into low-altitude orbit, according to Paul Buchanan, an American security expert based in New Zealand.
“This (the proliferation of low-earth-orbit satellites) has added to the already extant and growing middle and deeper space congestion,” he said in an email Tuesday. “So opening lines of communication at least between military space users is prudent.”
Other nations should be invited to join the hotline given the increasing possibility of accidents, collisions, near-misses and unintended jamming, Buchanan added.
“And then of course are any number of crises, intended or unintended, in which space-based military assets might be involved,” he said.
However, Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel and senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo, said a space hotline wouldn’t be prudent.
“You’d think years of pleading unsuccessfully with the Chinese to ‘talk to us’ would convince the geniuses at Space Command that this is a fool’s errand,” he said by email Tuesday. “We look like ridiculous supplicants and the Chinese play us for idiots.”
The U.S. and Chinese militaries have plenty of ways to communicate, Newsham added.
“A new hotline makes no difference,” he said. “The Chinese aren’t interested in talking to us — unless we have some concession to offer up in exchange for the privilege of talking.”