China's excessive maritime claims are directly analogous to its emerging claims for vertical sovereignty in space, a trend the US must not leave unchallenged
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This is precisely the position taken by Bao Shixiu, a Senior Fellow at the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army of China. In his critique of the U.S. 2006 National Space Policy (NSP), Bao advances the notion of vertical sovereignty with the following curious statement: "[t]he NSP declares that U.S. space systems should be guaranteed safe passage over all countries without exception (such as 'interference' by other countries, even when done for the purpose of safeguarding their sovereignty and their space integrity). 20 1 However, the statement in the NSP to which Bao refers is not limited solely to U.S. space systems. It reads: "The United States considers space systems to have the rights of passage through and operations in space without interference." Thus, the rights recognized in the U.S. space policy are applicable to all space systems, which is compatible with the Outer Space Treaty. However, the principal concern vis-A-vis potential Chinese claims of vertical sovereignty over portions of space above their territory lies not with a claim of complete sovereignty, but rather with the assertion that satellite navigation above Chinese territory is subject to Chinese "consent and control" as articulated by Professor Cheng.
This space sovereignty position is directly analogous to China's assertion of sovereignty over the airspace above its seaborne EEZ.2° Recall that China alleges that military reconnaissance missions constitute an abuse of overflight rights.20 5 China may easily adapt and extend this same position to the space domain, applying it to overflight by American military satellites passing over Chinese territory. ￼￼
Legal scholar Ren Xiaofeng summarizes Beijing's sensitivity to reconnaissance and military activities in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and its adjacent airspace this way: "Freedom of navigation and overflight does not include the freedom to conduct military and reconnaissance activities. These things [military reconnaissance activities] amount to forms of military deterrence and intelligence gathering as battlefield preparation." These activities in the EEZ, according to Ren, connote preparation to use force against the coastal state. When Ren refers to the "adjacent airspace," he includes outer space and space reconnaissance.20
China's ostensible military objective for such action is denial, "the temporary elimination of some or all of a space system's capability to produce effects, usually without physical damage. 20 8 This legal argument, if ultimately successful, would have the strategic effect of rendering American military satellites useless and could establish a lawful predicate for Chinese military action against those satellites.20 9 Given its increased military expenditures for research and development of counterspace 21 technology, China could contemplate action that would effectively blind the United States with regard to Chinese military actions. International acquiescence or acceptance of Chinese assertions of vertical sovereignty would effectively vitiate national means of verification of compliance regarding any existing or new arms reduction treaties, and would render meaningless any proposal to ban or limit weapons in space.