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China needs a “hard kill” weapon to destroy Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites, a state university with close links to the country’s communist regime has said.
Researchers from the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications Technology called Starlink a threat to China’s national security because of its “huge potential for military applications”.
Starlink is Elon Musk’s global connectivity project, consisting of thousands of satellites in a near-Earth orbit paired with ground terminals giving its users high speed internet access.
In a paper published in China’s Modern Defence Technology journal, the five-strong team of academics say Starlink could be used by the US military and called for China to develop weapons to destroy the internet connectivity network. The paper said: “It is necessary to further develop related technologies and form disposal capabilities.”
They add that China should “vigorously develop countermeasures” and be prepared to “use a combination of soft kill and hard kill” techniques against the satellite network.
A translation of the paper’s conclusion said the anti-Starlink push is needed for China “to maintain and obtain space advantages in the fierce space game”. Starlink’s unique selling point is its ease of deployment, which has seen the technology rolled out in Ukraine as the Russian military bombed the country’s conventional phone networks.
Dmitry Rogozin, chief of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, said in March that Starlink was no longer a “purely civilian” technology after Mr Musk directly responded to Twitter pleas from the Ukrainian government for access to its satellites.
Mr Rogozin said: “I warned about it, but our ‘muskophiles’ said he is the light of world cosmonautics. Here, look, he has chosen the side.”
US researchers have proposed using Starlink as an alternative to GPS, relying on the satellites’ timing signals as an alternative to the decades-old positioning system, long seen as a target for countries seeking to cripple western military technology.
One possible scenario for China to attack Starlink could be during an invasion of Taiwan where the US intervenes to support the island nation.
On Monday, the US President Joe Biden promised to defend Taiwan if China invades, comparing the prospect of a military attack with the Ukraine war. He said the US had made a “commitment” to defend Taiwan, which mainland China describes as a breakaway province.