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China GPS rival to U.S. goes operational

BEIJING - A Chinese rival to the U.S. global positioning system network has started providing services in China and the surrounding area.

The director of China's satellite navigation system office, Ran Chengqi, told reporters Tuesday that the Beidou navigation system is offering services including positioning, navigation routes and time.

Ran did not specify who the target users are, but he said Beidou would be available to Chinese and foreign companies for research and development.

China, and especially its military, have long been wary of relying on the United States' dominant GPS network, fearing that Washington might take the system offline in a conflict or an emergency. The Beidou project began at the start of the last decade as China sought to develop an alternative to the United States' government-run GPS. Another six satellites are slated for space launch next year, when the system will cover most of Asia. by 2020, China expects to have 35 satellites circling the globe.

China has brushed aside suggestions that it might use its global satellite network for military purposes. However, policy analysts aren't persuaded by the regime's public statements. In 2004, MIT published a paper, outlining how Beidou might be deployed to aim cruise missiles against Taiwan

More recently, a report by the website noted that an independent global navigation system would afford China "a considerable strategic military advantage" in a regional military conflict.

"Such an advantage could prove useful in deterring or hindering the ability of the United States or even India to project air power to intervene with any military operation China decides to take against Taiwan, the Philippines or any other interests China has in the South China Sea," it wrote.

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