China has been the one pushing for a ban on space weapons. Maybe they needed to prove that they have a good bargaining chip.
After a Chinese interceptor smashed into a target satellite in January, Bush administration officials criticized the test as a destabilizing development.
It was the first successful demonstration of an antisatellite missile by any country in more than 20 years. Pentagon officials warned that the test had increased the threat to American satellites. Space experts fretted that it had spawned a cloud of orbiting debris. American diplomats complained to their counterparts in Beijing.
What administration officials did not say is that as the Chinese were preparing to launch their antisatellite weapon, American intelligence agencies had issued reports about the preparations being made at the Songlin test facility. In high-level discussions, senior Bush administration officials debated how to respond and even began to draft a protest, but ultimately decided to say nothing to Beijing until after the test.
Three months after the Chinese launching, a new debate has developed as to whether the administration properly handled the episode or missed an opportunity to discourage the Chinese from crossing a new military threshold.
The events show that the administration felt constrained in its dealings with China because of its view that it had little leverage to stop an important Chinese military program, and because it did not want to let Beijing know how much the United States knew about its space launching activities.