China’s ‘military space program’: Why did NASA chief sound alarm from Germany?

FPI / July 6, 2022

By Richard Fisher

United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) director Bill Nelson has warned of China’s aggressive intent in space and on the Moon. But is a lack of leadership by the Biden Administration ensuring that China will gain a dominant position on the Moon?

Screen cap from the webpage of the German newspaper Bild, from NASA director Bill Nelson’s interview published on July 2. / Bild

In a July 3 interview published in the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, NASA director Bill Nelson made comments about China’s aggressive intent in space and on the Moon.

Nelson told Bild, “There is a new race to space, this time with China.”

Regarding China’s military use of space Nelson stated, “China’s space program is a military space program…Well, what do you think is happening on the Chinese space station? They learn there how to destroy other people’s satellites.”

Regarding the Moon, Nelson stated, “We must be very concerned about China landing on the moon and saying that it now belongs to the People’s Republic and everyone else should stay out.”

On July 4, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back saying, “This is not the first time that the NASA administrator has lashed out at China in disregard of facts.”

China’s Global Times used this verbal incident as an opportunity to promote division on the U.S. side, first noting that cooperation between NASA and China in space had been prohibited by the 2011 “Wolf Amendment” of former Congressman Frank Wolf.

Global Times went on to say, “several former NASA chiefs have expressed their dissatisfaction over the Wolf Amendment which limits their cooperation with China. So do the majority of US researchers in this field including NASA officials, who are willing to see more interactions with China in space.”

Global Times also attacked Nelson’s suggestion of Chinese “imperialism” on the Moon by attacking the U.S.-led Artemis Accords for common peaceful behavior on the Moon, saying,

“In contrast with the US lunar exploration project known as the ‘Artemis Accords,’ which experts believe reveals its ‘exclusive nature for mimicking a space-based NATO,’ China and Russia’s partnership stresses bringing advancement for all, with the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.”

There is much to assess. First, why is Nelson making these specific charges in a German newspaper, albeit one that it generally conservative and pro-American?

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