By Manuel Cereijo

The Chinese have the space capabilities of the most advanced industrialized countries. They build and launch long-range missiles, put satellites in orbit, and, as of late 2000, plan a national strategy for manned space flight. China has been able to, according to intelligent sources, leap-frogged years of R&D by spying on the United States.

What are stolen secrets good for? Understanding their value helps in developing an appropriate response. The most obvious value is to apply what has been learned directly to one's own programs. From knowledge of a competitor's technology can flow accurate assessment of the capabilities it opens up and hence insight into the competitor's intentions.

Espionage is not a phantom menace or a paranoid fantasy. Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it was confirmed that, from the 1940s on, the Soviets stole U.S. nuclear and aerospace secrets, and made significant use of the material. Presently, Russia has in Cuba, among other bases in other countries, the Lourdes electronic espionage base. China operates from Cuba, in conjunction with the Cubans, the Bejucal electronic espionage base.This is a base built by Russia for the Cubans, and finished in 1997.

There is nothing backward about Chinese capabilities when it comes to missile and space technology. In terms of missile weapons, China developed an ICBM called the Dong-Feng 5in the 70s. In power is equivalent to a U.S. Titan or Atlas missile. The two stage missile has a range of about 12,000 kms. And carries a single 3 megaton warhead. These missiles are being replaced with newer models with greater range and accuracy.

Still more advanced ICBMs are under development. Missiles are kept in tunnels and employ other so-called survivability enhancements so they can resist surprise attacks, nuclear or conventional. The Dong-Feng-5 is also the basis of the Chinese space launch family, the Chang-Zheng-2 (Long March) and its derivatives. China has converted an ICBM base at Taiyuan, southwest of Beijing, into a satellite launching center. China is only the third country in the world to operate recoverable satellites, which can bring photographic film and experimental specimens back to earth.

The first satellite to be launched on Earth in the 21st century was a test of the Shenzhou-2 unmanned spaceship on January 9, 2001. China expects to launch up to 10 space vehicles this year, nearly twice its annual rate of the 1990s.China will likely seek space technology "shortcuts" where they can be found, and to develop them domestically when needed.

Here lies the importance of the every day closer ties between Cuba and China, and the growing scientific and military Chinese presence in Cuba.


Manuel Cereijo

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