London (Agencies): The US threatened to military action against China over its space missile tests, according to secret diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website.

The nuclear superpowers shot down their own satellites using complicated missiles in separate shows of strength, the documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph suggest.

The American government was so angry with the Chinese actions that it privately warned Beijing it would face military action if it did not stop.

However, China went on to carry out more tests as recently as last year, leading to further protests from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, secret documents show.

Beijing justified its tests by accusing the Americans of developing an "offensive" laser weapon system that would have the capacity of destroying missiles before they left enemy territory.

According to the daily, the "star wars" arms race began in January 2007 when China stunned the US by shooting down one of its weather satellite 848 km above the earth.

In February 2008, the US carried out its own "test" strike to destroy a malfunctioning American satellite, which demonstrated to the Chinese it also had the capability to strike in space.

The US stated at the time that the strike was not a military test but a necessary mission to remove a cranky spy satellite.
However, the leaked documents appear to show its true intentions.

In secret dispatches, US officials suggested that the strike was, in fact, military in nature.

The strike marked a high in tensions between Washington and Beijing over the issue of ballistic missile defence. The cables show that China was deeply worried about the US plans to place missile defence radars in Japan.

The most recent cable in the collection was sent from the office of Hillary Clinton in January 2010.

It claimed that US intelligence detected that China had launched a new anti-satellite missile test. Importantly, Washington wanted to keep secret its knowledge that the missile test was linked to China's previous space strikes.

The cable, marked "secret" said the Chinese army had sent an SC-19 missile that successfully destroyed a CSS-X-11 missile about 240 km above the earth.