China Military Aims To Build Up Space Defences
As China insists its ambitious space programme is peaceful, President Xi Jinping orders the speeding up of air-space integration.
China's President has called for improvements to the country's space and air defence capabilities amid what state media says is a response to the increasing militarisation of space by the US and other rivals.
Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi Jinping called on the military "speed up airspace integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities".
The official Xinhua news agency gave no further details about how this might be done, but satellite images published in March suggested that a rocket launched last year was actually a test of a new anti-satellite weapons rather than the research mission China claimed.
China insists its ambitious space programme is peaceful, but such claims were first questioned in 2007 when the military used a ground-based missile to destroy one of its own satellites in orbit.
The state-run China Daily newspaper quoted Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, as saying the space defences were needed.
"The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarisation," he was quoted as saying.
"Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space."
The China Daily article said "the idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force".
Beijing sees the space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.