July 25, 2020 / 10:08 PM / 13 days ago

UK Defence Secretary to boost ability to handle space threat from Russia, China

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain, June 16, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

(Reuters) - Britain will boost its ability to handle threats posed by Russia and China in space as part of a foreign, security and defence policy review being conducted by the UK government, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said late on Saturday.

On Thursday, Britain said it was concerned about a Russian satellite test which involved the launch of a projectile with the “characteristics of a weapon”.

“This week we have been reminded of the threat Russia poses to our national security with the provocative test of a weapon-like projectile from a satellite threatening the peaceful use of space”, Wallace wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, adding that China also posed a threat.

“China, too, is developing offensive space weapons and both nations are upgrading their capabilities. Such behaviour only underlines the importance of the review the (UK) government is currently conducting”, he added.

Tensions between Britain and Russia have been high in recent weeks, as Britain has targeted Russians with new sanctions, accused Russian actors of trying to meddle in last year’s election and said Moscow has tried to hack into vaccine research.

Separately, Britain announced on Monday it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an escalation of a dispute with China over its introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by the end of 2027.

China - once courted as the prime source of investment in British infrastructure projects - has accused Britain of pandering to the United States.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Johnson was also set to overhaul the United Kingdom’s treason laws to counter threats posed by China and Russia, with the step likely to see a new Treason Act, a new Espionage Act and a rewriting of the Official Secrets Act.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

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