Preventing space arms race is an urgent task

After US President Trump announced the formal establishment of the Space Command, the United States went further to form an independent space army. The new Space Command will be responsible for planning and implementing space operations, including missile warning, satellite operations, space control and support. The acceleration of space militarization by some countries led by the United States has once again raised concerns: Will this lead to a space arms race like the nuclear arms race during the Cold War? What new risks will this bring to human society? What measures does human society need to take to address this new challenge?

The militarization of space is likely to become a reality soon. If the United States formally forms a space army, it will be a foregone conclusion for mankind to enter the era of space militarization. In fact, the process of militarization of space has already begun. As early as 1985-2002, the United States had a space command and was later merged by the Strategic Command. Stimulated by the United States to accelerate the process of militarization of space, other countries have also begun construction of space military institutions. For example, Russia established the Air Force in 2015. France plans to set up a space command this year and develop into an air force in the future. Japan will set up an “information and space force.”

Despite this, the US move will still have important milestones. In the past, humans mainly used defensive and mediamatic use of space, such as anti-missile, anti-satellite, ground-reconnaissance, and land-based missiles re-entering the Earth through space. But in the future, space will become a place for offensive power competition. The passive military use of space by human society will develop in the direction of active military use.

In the case that militarization of space will become a reality, human society has to actively think about solutions to related risks and challenges.

First, we must actively prevent the emergence of a space arms race. Now, some countries feel the necessity of militarization of space, which is similar to the motivation and strategic considerations of the development of nuclear weapons competition between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But human society must also learn from the experience and lessons of the nuclear arms race. The United States and the Soviet Union had more than 70,000 nuclear weapons with a total equivalent of more than 10 billion tons. In the end, these expensive nuclear weapons have brought many risks to the world, and they have not brought much security benefits to the United States and the Soviet Union. Instead, they have forced the two countries to take the initiative to carry out nuclear disarmament. More importantly, more than 40,000 nuclear weapons did not ultimately guarantee the national security of the Soviet Union.

The history of the nuclear arms race tells countries that security concerns from outer space are understandable, but the space arms race based on miscommunication and miscalculation of strategic intentions is unnecessary and can and should be avoided.

Second, if it is unavoidable, it is necessary to enhance the research and exchanges on the militarization of space and formulate relevant rules in advance. With the development of science and technology, with the increasing capacity of countries in space and the increasing interest in space, more use of space, including military use, will become an inevitable trend in the history of human development. However, countries must strengthen discussions and exchanges, and develop space regulations as soon as possible to prevent human security risks caused by strategic misjudgments and disorder. A well-managed, well-coordinated space application can not only effectively reduce human security risks, but also generate other security benefits.

The third is to shape the new space identity of mankind. In the past, human activities were mainly in the fields of land, sea, sky, electromagnetics, and networks, all of which were based on the Earth. But space is a new field that exists outside of the earth. In the face of space, we are not only people from different countries, but also “earth people.” This identity brings new challenges to countries, but it also gives us new opportunities to re-recognize ourselves and develop ourselves. On the issue of militarization of space and its governance, human society should become a community of destiny more quickly.