HONOLULU — Senior military commanders at the U.S. Pacific Command here said China’s recent test of an anti-satellite weapon and increased computer-hacking activities prompted increased defenses for U.S. forces in the region and in space.
“U.S. space capabilities are an asymmetric advantage that we have to maintain,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
“There has been significant discussion and activity to assess the impact of [the anti-satellite test] and other [Chinese] space developments, and how to protect our extraordinarily important space capability,” he said in an interview at the command’s headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith.
Pentagon officials have said Chinese military hackers in recent months carried out computer-based attacks on Pentagon and U.S. military and civilian government computer networks, as well as on foreign government networks.
Without naming China, Gen. Leaf said the problem of computer attacks is growing.
“We’re very concerned about that — for the information that may be contained on [the networks] or for the activities we conduct that are command and control and situational awareness related.”
Details of recent computer attacks, including those on Pacific Command networks, are classified, Gen. Leaf said. But the issue was raised in meetings with Chinese military officials.
“We expect actions that are consistent with the professed desire for a peaceful, responsible rise of China as a more significant player on the Pacific and world stage,” he said.
Chinese military computer attacks “would not be consistent” with Beijing’s claim to be a peaceful rising power, he said.
Air Force Gen. Paul Hester, commander of U.S. air forces in the Pacific, said in a separate interview that China’s anti-satellite weapons and computer hacking are being watched closely.
“Cyber is a place where we are growing to learn where the dangers are,” he said in his office at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
Of the January anti-satellite weapons test by China, Gen. Hester said, “This new, out-of-the-blue test by China was certainly not expected. Does it change the equation? Absolutely. They’ve demonstrated the capability.”
Gen. Hester said he is concerned that such anti-satellite weapons could be used to disrupt U.S. military communications with commanders in Japan and South Korea.
“We are focused intently on that to make sure that the assurance of satellites and the protection of satellites is robust,” he said.
Gen. Leaf also discussed the Pentagon’s new “hedge” strategy of continuing to engage Beijing but preparing for a war if China turns hostile in the future.