US accuses SpaceX of hindering Taiwan's satellite internet service

    WORLD  25 February 2024 - 13:32

    An influential congressman has suggested SpaceX is withholding satellite service in Taiwan potentially in violation of its obligations to the U.S. government, the latest geopolitical dust-up for the company’s leader, Elon Musk.

    Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) said in a letter to Musk that multiple sources told a committee he leads that the satellite broadband provided through the company’s Starshield unit is inactive near and in Taiwan, according to Wall Street Journal.

    “SpaceX is possibly withholding broadband internet services in and around Taiwan—possibly in breach of SpaceX’s contractual obligations with the U.S. government,” Gallagher wrote in the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    He made clear in the letter his concern relates to communications, including for U.S. military personnel, in the event of Chinese “military aggression against Taiwan.”

    A former marine who leads a hawkish House Select Committee on China, Gallagher this past week led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Taiwan, where he reiterated that his top political priority is deterring Chinese leader Xi Jinping from attempting to militarily take control of the island. A fear is the U.S. would be drawn into any conflict.

    Starshield is a SpaceX program designed to provide secure satellite communications and other services for national-security customers, according to the company.

    A spokesman for SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment. Forbes earlier reported on the letter.

    China claims sovereignty of Taiwan, a democratically governed island it hasn’t ever controlled. Beijing regularly hits out at perceived challenges to its claimed sovereignty, including during Gallagher’s recent Taiwan visit.

    China’s embassy in Washington on February 24 night in a response to questions reiterated that it urges the U.S. to abide by a one-China principle, including by not enhancing military contact with Taiwan or “arming it by any means or under whatever pretext.”Gallagher, who recently announced he won’t seek re-election, has through his committee challenged several American companies over concerns that their actions empower China.

    SpaceX has long worked closely with U.S. military and intelligence agencies, which have hired the company to blast off sensitive and classified government satellites. The company has been expanding that relationship with satellite technology it has developed.

    In his letter, Gallagher said that the government had committed more than $100 million to Starshield. SpaceX is obligated to provide global access to broadband internet services for the Pentagon and other government agencies, the letter said. It asked for more information about Starshield availability in and near Taiwan by March 8.

    The tensions are another example of how SpaceX’s satellite programs have drawn the company and Musk into geopolitics. SpaceX operates the world’s largest communications-satellite fleet in low-Earth orbit, regularly blasting off fresh batches of them.

    That network powers the company’s Starlink internet service, which is designed for civilian subscribers. 

    Caliber.Az

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