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Thursday, January 20, 2011

U.S.-China Space Policy: What's Up?


Flying below the news media’s radar -- but high on the Pentagon’s list of concerns during this week’s visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao -- is China’s space program. The joint statement issued by the two governments in Washington yesterday repeated past promises to “deepen dialog and exchanges in the field of space” but conspicuously excluded any discussion of space security, which had been included in the U.S.-Chinese joint statement released after President Obama’s trip to China in November 2009. This omission, according to Gregory Kulacki, the China Program manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), may be due to the fact the administration’s attempts to engage China on space have not been productive.

The Pentagon is about to release a National Security Space Strategy that questions how the United States should respond to what is being described as “China’s major investment in counter-space capabilities.” According to Kulacki, Obama administration officials responsible for engaging China on space issues have privately confessed frustration and disappointment with China’s response to their efforts, which they perceive as a lack of interest.

Kulacki argues the administration officials’ difficulties may stem from the unique history and development of China’s space program, which has important implications for its relationship with the United States. “The two countries are looking for very different things from cooperation,” he said, “which has tied the bilateral dialog on space into a Gordian knot that may take more to untie than the Obama administration is willing or able to give.”

For more from Kulacki on this topic, go to the UCS Global Security Program blog.

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