Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US considers space collaboration with China after test

UNLIKELY PAIR While Washington criticized Beijing's recent downing of a satellite, the US said that a cooperative moon mission may be possible

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US said on Friday it was reevaluating possible space cooperation with China, including joint moon exploration, following Beijing's recent anti-satellite weapon test.

China's test of a satellite-killing missile last month was "inconsistent" with an agreement between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to forge cooperation in the civil space area, the State Department said.

"Any future civil space cooperation with China will need to be evaluated within the context of China's ASAT (anti-satellite) test," department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.

Washington has protested the test both to China's ambassador in Washington and to the foreign ministry in Beijing and asked for an explanation of exactly what occurred.

It was concerned that the test, which destroyed one of China's own orbiting satellites with a ballistic missile, had scattered debris in space that could endanger the manned International Space Station or other orbiting satellites.

Vasquez said that during Hu's visit to the US last April, he and Bush agreed to explore the possibility of some cooperation in the civil space area, such as in lunar space exploration.

"Immediately following China's ASAT test, the concerns we raised with China included our view that the test was inconsistent with the two presidents' agreement to seek cooperation in the civil space area," Vasquez said.

The test made China only the third country in the world -- after the United States and the former Soviet Union -- to down an object in space.

Washington and Moscow stopped the practice in 1985, in part over concerns about the debris left in space.

Over the past several years, NASA's "bilateral interactions" with China had been very limited because of "government-to-government issues," said Jason Sharp, spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"No bilateral discussions were ongoing or planned either before or after China's anti-satellite test," he said.

Washington has been "pretty strong" in meetings with Beijing over the test, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Wednesday.

China was told "that they needed to come clean fully in public as to what the data concerning this test, what the motivations behind the test were, what their plans were for future such tests, and how this squared with their stated policy of not wanting to militarize space," McCormack said.

Beijing has long sought closer cooperation with the US on space issues but Washington has been lukewarm because of concerns about the involvement of China's military in its space program.

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