U.S., China plan to meet on civil space

U.S., China plan to meet on civil space


U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in the United States later in 2019 for bilateral talks about civil space, a senior U.S. official said, amid growing concerns about China’s behavior in the rapidly expanding commercial space market.

The talks, which will likely happen in Washington, D.C., was pegged to progress in the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in late June 2019, the official said.

“It’s completely separate. We have reason to talk to China about being a responsible actor in outer space, regardless almost of anything that happens,” said David Turner, deputy director of the U.S. State Department Office of Space and Advanced Technology.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have worsened since talks collapsed in May 2019, when the United States accused China of reneging on pledges to reform its economy.

That conflict could eventually spill over to the commercial space economy, but for now, Washington was keen to remain engaged on space matters with China, officials said.

Beijing shocked the world in 2007 with an unexpected anti-satellite test that created massive amounts of debris in space and posed risks to the International Space Station.

The last U.S.-Chinese talks on civil space took place in Beijing in November 2017 before the start of the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Kevin O’Connell, director of the Office of Space Commerce at the U.S. Commerce Department, said U.S. companies were voicing growing concern about artificial pricing offered by Chinese competitors and the forced transfer of intellectual property.

He said the U.S. government was “greatly worried” about such reports, and what appeared to be Beijing’s different understanding of what constituted a “commercial” market.

“It’s a conversation that this government wants to have in a civil space dialogue,” O’Connell said. “What do they mean by commercial, what kinds of behaviors would we consider to be off limits in a commercial context, etc.?”

O’Connell said U.S. companies were seeing China piling into the lucrative and growing commercial space market in both the technical and services sectors. There had also been several attempts by Chinese firms to purchase U.S. companies active in the market, although those bids had been rejected, he said. (Pictured: AFalcon Heavy rocket, built by U.S.-based private space exploration company SpaceX, with a communications satellite aboard lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 11, 2019.)