French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday announced the creation of a new national military space force command, as France becomes the latest of the world's top powers to boost defense capabilities in outer space.
Macron said space has become a "true national security issue" due to increased spending and interest in the area by the United States, India, China and Russia.
The president said the new space command would be created in September and would initially be tasked with "better protecting" French satellites.
The declaration was made on the eve of France's Bastille Day national celebrations.
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Macron told top military officials and troops due to take part in a huge military parade on Sunday that cyberspace and outer space are "new zones of confrontation."
The French leader said he had approved a new military doctrine that will "enable us to defend ourselves in space and via space."
He said the French air force would in due course become the Air and Space Force, following new investments.
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Macron's announcement mirrors an initiative in the US championed by President Donald Trump for a new "Space Force" to become the sixth branch of the military by 2020.
The world's top powers have stepped up a race for space militarization with China, India, the US and Russia all testing weapon systems that can knock out satellites in space and power grids on earth.
Military activities — including spy satellites, location tracing and jamming, communications and cyber-attacks — could increasingly be set up in orbit around Earth.
US military officials have admitted that American forces would find themselves fighting from space "in a matter of years."
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France notably has a 2019-2025 military spending plan that allocates €3.6 billion ($4 billion) to defense in space, including the renewal of key communication satellites, the launch of three electromagnetic-monitoring satellites and the modernization of a spatial radar surveillance system.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) aims to recognize space as a domain of warfare this year, four senior diplomats told the Reuters news agency in June.
mm/amp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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