- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

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. intelligence officials.
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" system.
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 of Japan.
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 years.
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 satellite.
"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."

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