BEIJING - A top China air force commander has called the militarization of space an "historical inevitability", state media said Monday, marking an apparent shift in Beijing's opposition to weaponizing outer space.
In a wide-ranging interview in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, air force commander Xu Qiliang said it was imperative for the PLA air force to develop offensive and defensive operations in outer space.
"As far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space... this is a historical inevitability and a development that cannot be turned back," Xu told the paper.
"The PLA air force must establish in a timely manner the concepts of space security, space interests and space development.
"We must build an outer space force that conforms with the needs of our nation's development (and) the demands of the development of the space age."
Superiority in outer space can give a nation control over war zones both on land and at sea, while also offering a strategic advantage, Xu said, noting that such dominance was necessary to safeguard the nation.
"Only power can protect peace," the 59-year-old commander said in the interview given to coincide with this month's 60th anniversary of the founding of the PLA air force.
China has long stated that it supported the peaceful uses of outer space and opposed the introduction of weapons there. Beijing has also sought to establish an international treaty to control the deployment of weapons in space.
In January 2007, China surprised the world by shooting down one of its own weather satellites in a test seen by many, including the United States, as a possible trigger of an arms race in space.