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The draft demarche demanded to know the purpose of the test and whether it is part of a missile-defense system; whether China plans to deploy missile defenses for its forces and territory; what “foreign forces” is China planning to target with the missile defenses; and whether China tried to limit space debris.

The protest note also said that, if asked by the Chinese about U.S. objections to anti-satellite tests, they should state: “U.S. concerns voiced at the Conference on Disarmament and at the United Nations are still valid and reflect the policy of the United States.”

China apparently gave in to U.S. and international pressure and since January 2007 has not conducted another ASAT test.

Mark Stokes, a Chinese arms specialist with the 2049 Institute, a think tank, said the missile-defense system was significant.

“The space-intercept test conducted last year further demonstrates advances that China has made in its ability to track and engage targets in space, whether satellites or ballistic missiles,” Mr. Stokes said.

John Tkacik, a former State Department China specialist, said he was surprised that the Pentagon did not disclose the link between the missile-defense test and China’s anti-satellite system.

“All we got last year was Assistant Defense Secretary Chip Gregson vaguely saying that the U.S. was seeking an explanation,” Mr. Tkacik said. “We have since been stiff-armed by the Chinese in every proposal we’ve made to sit down and discuss rules of the road on space and strategic weapons. But the Obama people apparently are trying to play-down China’s BMD capabilities.”

Mr. Tkacik said the Obama administration was so overly focused on arms talks with the Russians aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals that it neglected U.S. missile defenses and ignored China’s advances in that weaponry.

“We have to start taking China’s space capabilities very seriously,” he said. “The Chinese have a dozen academies filled with world-class space and missile scientists, they know what they’re doing, and they have unlimited funds to do it with.”

Honors’ next step

Capt. Owen Honors, the officer who lost his carrier command for making raunchy onboard videos, is asking the secretary of the Navy to withhold action on any punishment until a proposed board of inquiry finishes it work.

Last week, Adm. John C. Harvey, who commands fleet forces, recommended that the secretary censure Capt. Honors. Such punishment would end the aviator’s career and possibly lead to a demotion.

But the investigation on which Adm. Harvey acted is not necessarily the last one. When he fired Capt. Honors last January as skipper of the USS Enterprise, he also recommended that the officer be released from the Navy. It is now up to the Navy Personnel Command to decided whether to hold an inquiry at which Capt. Honors would show why he did nothing wrong and can remain on active duty.

Adm. Harvey recommended censures for three other officers but not what is called “detachment for cause,” as he did Capt. Honors.

“Adm. Harvey did not relieve any other officers of command or recommend that any others be relieved of command,” said his spokesman, Cmdr. Chris Sims. “Therefore, he could not make a recommendation that anyone be detached for cause.”

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