The United States and China appear to be keeping an unusually low profile as they push for more dialogue and cooperation on space exploration.
The State Department hosted a new round of space cooperation talks in Washington last week with a delegation led by China’s National Space Administration (CNSA), but U.S. officials didn’t publicly announce the meeting until Monday, via a tersely worded press release that said a third round of civil space dialogue would be held in China next year.
CNSA has yet to make any public mention of the talks, which included Pentagon officials and representatives from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.
In the United States, cooperation with China’s space agencies is a sensitive topic. U.S. law prohibits NASA from working with CNSA on manned space programs, and the U.S. military is concerned that cooperation with China’s space sector would help China improve its ability to threaten U.S. space assets.
NASA officials, however, have called on Congress to lift the ban, calling U.S.-China space cooperation a logistical imperative.
Testifying on Capitol Hill last month, experts from four Washington think tanks and research institutions warned that China’s space and military sectors are closely linked. They also urged the U.S. space sector to be very careful in trying to cooperate with China’s aerospace agencies.
The State Department said Monday that U.S.-China space dialogue and cooperation could promote responsible behavior in space by the two countries and enhance transparency of human space activities.
Asked to discuss the space cooperation talks in further detail, neither State Department nor Pentagon officials had responded to requests for comments by late Tuesday.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.