Russia will cooperate with China on space projects, but will not transfer sensitive technologies that could enable Beijing to become a rival in a future space race, the head of the Russian space agency said.
Moscow and Beijing will cooperate with China in robotic missions to the moon, Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said on Tuesday. He added, however, that Russia would maintain restrictions on sharing technology.
"The Chinese are still some 30 years behind us, but their space program has been developing very fast," Perminov said at a news conference. "They are quickly catching up with us."
Russia sold China the technology that formed the basis of its manned space program, which launched its first astronaut in 2003 and two others last year.
The next Chinese manned space flight is due next year. China also wants to send up a space station and land a robot probe on the moon by 2010.
Perminov said that Moscow would cooperate with China in space exploration strictly within the framework of a bilateral agreement that doesn't envisage exporting Russian space technologies.
"We aren't transferring any technologies to China now," he said. "This issue has been under special control of the government."
He added that some Russian scientists who violated this ban have been punished -- an apparent reference to Valentin Danilov, a physicist who was convicted of spying for China in 2004.
Danilov pleaded innocent to the charges, saying the information on satellites he provided was not classified and that he had published some of it in scientific magazines.
Asked whether China could eventually become a rival to Russia in space, Perminov responded that "these concerns aren't unfounded."
"For China, whose economy has seen an immense growth, its space program has been one of the top national priorities," he said.
"They are spending much more on space compared to Russia ... and their space industries employ many times more the number of scientists and workers than Russia's," he said.
After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership. But despite the burgeoning ties, some Russian politicians and political experts have voiced concern that China's growing could eventually threaten Russia, noting the growing flow of Chinese migrants to Russia's Far East.
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