US Space Force wants hotline to China amid rising tensions

Cold War 2 is heating up

As actor Bob Hoskins once said, it's good to talk, and nowhere is that old adage more pertinent than in defusing situations that could lead to all-out war.

The United States Space Force would seem to agree as reports suggest the sixth armed service has been having internal discussions about hooking up a hotline to China.

We imagine this to be a red rotary telephone that a commander will grab to let China know that its secret nuke-faring satellite is getting uncomfortably close to Uncle Sam's secret research craft.

"What we have talked about on the US side at least is opening up a line of communication to make sure that if there is a crisis, we know who we can contact," US commander General Chance Saltzman told Reuters.

However, Saltzman admitted that such approaches had not yet been made, and that the job would be down to US President Joe Biden and the State Department to move forward.

The comments were made on the back of plans by USSF to set up shop in Japan, which is concerned about China's ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, particularly around Taiwan, which Beijing considers its property.

Taiwan has been independently and democratically governed since the 1940s-50s, when the Republic of China government fled to the island nation amid civil war with the Chinese Communist Party.

Japan fears that China may have been emboldened by Russia's designs on Ukraine, which had its territory in Crimea annexed in 2014. Since early 2022, the bear has come back for more.

It doesn't take a foreign policy expert to note the parallels and dire global consequences if Beijing seized Taiwan – the world's largest producer of semiconductors – thus Saltzman was holding talks with Japanese defense officials in Tokyo on Monday.

USSF already has a branch in South Korea, which could form the basis for a similar outpost in Japan, Saltzman said.

"We have to be able to have those indications and warnings and see what they're doing and call them on the intent. Just being hypersensitive so we don't fall prey to gray zone activities," Saltzman said.

"Gray zone" being indirect measures like satellite jamming that are adversarial yet not an action that would drive others to war.

At the height of the Cold War, the Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link was agreed in Geneva following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Popularly known as the "hotline" and often depicted in fiction as a red telephone, it actually started as a teletype link then moved to fax in the 1980s. Since 2008, it's been more in the form of secure email.

Now more military hardware is being slung into orbit than ever, it makes sense that the US Space Force establishes a similar connection to China.

Perhaps the Cold War never actually ended; it's only the players that have changed around a bit. ®

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