Last week, China once again hit the headlines with its space program. One of the country’s Long March 5B rockets re-entered the atmosphere too soon, causing it to disintegrate uncontrollably and cause a multitude of debris to fall over an area of several thousand kilometres.
However, the treaties oblige China, like other space powers, to ensure that launches do not cause uncontrolled falls of debris on inhabited areas. On the whole, all space agencies more or less manage to meet this requirement. Including private companies like SpaceX.
China recovers debris from its manu militari rocket on Philippine territory
But China is regularly illustrated with incidents of this type involving, to make matters worse, large objects, likely not to be completely disintegrated in the atmosphere, even though its rockets have undergone several revisions. And the problem is not limited to rockets, since China had also caused an uproar with, for example, the uncontrolled reentry of Tiangong 1, the first Chinese space station.
What annoy the international space agencies, but also exacerbate tensions in the China Sea. The country is indeed posting more and more territorial claims in the area, even if it encroaches on the sovereignty of its neighbours. The Spratly Islands area in particular is regularly the scene of tensions.
China is gradually seizing islands that are nevertheless under the sovereignty of other nations, and does not hesitate to build military bases there. However, the fall of debris from its Long March rocket in the area seems to serve as a pretext for new violations of sovereignty by the Chinese navy, as reported by the Philippine navy.
The Philippines indeed accuses China of preventing its navy boats from recovering rocket debris near Thitu Island, which is part of its territory. However, the People’s Army of China would not have stopped there. While one of the Filipino boats was towing a piece of rocket, Chinese soldiers reportedly cut the line.
Before recovering the debris. Things could have escalated, but given the risk of conflict, the Philippine army seems to have preferred not to respond with force – contenting itself with issuing diplomatic protests. But the incident calls out, while Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States, was on the island at the time of the facts.
For its part, China disputes the Philippines’ version of events. According to the People’s Army, the Philippine Navy handed over the rocket debris to China after “friendly consultation” between the two sides.