- China's military has deployed a new reconnaissance satellite
that is being used to target U.S. forces in the region, according to U.S.
- The satellite is Beijing's first high-resolution imaging
satellite and is disguised as a civilian earth monitoring system, said
officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
- The satellite secretly has been designated as the Jianbing-3,
officials said. Its public name is Ziyuan-2 (ZY-2). Ziyuan means "resource."
- The satellite was launched Sept. 1 from the Taiyuan Satellite
Launching Center in the northern Shanxi Province. The official Xinhua news
agency described the satellite as a civilian "remote sensing"
- The news agency said the satellite would be used primarily
in territorial surveying, city planning, crop yield assessment, disaster
monitoring and space science experimentation.
- Xinhua made no mention of its military spying role.
- An official familiar with intelligence reports on the
launch said it is "a photoreconnaissance satellite used exclusively
for military purposes."
- The satellite is being used by China's military for planning
combat operations, such as targeting missiles at U.S. forces in Japan and
elsewhere, and preparing for both missile and aircraft strikes on Taiwan,
an island nation that Beijing views as a breakaway province.
- "Contrary to officially announced civilian missions,
this spacecraft is actually a high-resolution imagery satellite that is
producing images of military targets in the areas surrounding China,"
the official said.
- "What has been described as a civilian earth sensing
satellite is actually a military bird," the official said, using the
intelligence term for a satellite.
- U.S. intelligence officials said the new satellite is
believed to employ digital-imaging technology to relay pictures to ground
stations, instead of photographic film sent back in canisters, a method
used on past Chinese satellites.
- The digital imagery capability is raising questions among
U.S. intelligence officials about whether the Chinese obtained advanced
American imagery technology covertly for the satellite.
- Earth sensing satellites normally are used to monitor
environmental changes or to help explore for natural resources on the ground.
- The resolution of the satellite is less than U.S. reconnaissance
satellites but comparable to the clarity produced by several U.S. and European
commercial imagery satellites now in use.
- Those satellites produce pictures with a resolution of
about 9 feet. The resolution means that the satellite produces photographs
capable of showing objects that size in detail.
- Officials said the reconnaissance satellite has raised
questions about China's opposition to Japan's announcement that it plans
to deploy a series of military satellites in the coming years. Beijing
views the development of military spy satellites as leading to a rearming
- Taiwan's defense minister, Wu Shih-wen, expressed concerns
shortly after the satellite launch that the system would be used for military
purposes. Taiwan's military is monitoring the satellite, he said.
- China's official SpaceChina Internet site said the satellite
was designed and built by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and was
developed indigenously. The satellite is said to be more advanced than
earlier sensing satellites and is expected to have an orbital life of two
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Orbital
Information Group at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt said
the satellite orbits the Earth every 94.3 minutes in an elliptical orbit
of 305 miles by 294 miles.
- Officials said the camera on the new satellite provides
more than three times the resolution of an earlier satellite designated
as the ZY-1, which is an earth sensing satellite.
- The Jianbing-3 is in a lower orbit than the ZY-1, the
officials said. The lower orbit is another indication that the satellite
has a higher resolution than other Chinese sensing satellites.
- Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military,
said the new satellite would be Beijing's first electro-optical imaging
- "This satellite has at least five-meter resolution,
which is more than sufficient for strategic targeting," said Mr. Fisher,
who is writing a book on China's military.
- Mr. Fisher said it is likely that the new satellite was
developed as part of China's space cooperation with Brazil.
- "For example, the high-speed real-time data transfer
technology may have come from Brazil," he said.
- China is expected to field several high-technology space
platforms, he said, including higher resolution imagery satellites, electronic
signals intelligence satellites and military communications satellites.
- U.S. intelligence officials disclosed to The Times last
year that China in January 2000 had launched its first military communications
satellite, part of a new command-and-control network designed to link its
forces for combat.
- "These will be netted to airborne and ground-based
sensors to give [People's Liberation Army] ballistic missiles, cruise missiles,
aircraft and ships a seamless tactical-to-strategic targeting capability,"
Mr. Fisher said. "This is bad news for Taiwan, and bad news for the
American forces that may have to come to Taiwan's defense."