Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang after they delivered closing statements at the conclusion of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) / Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE) at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. Credit: State Dept Image /June 24, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang after they delivered closing statements at the conclusion of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) / Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE) at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.
Credit: State Dept Image /June 24, 2015

The seventh round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was held June 22-24, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

The two sides held in-depth discussions on major bilateral, regional, and global issues, including a number of space agenda items.

“The depth and breadth of our discussion at this year’s Strategic & Economic Dialogue has been significant,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, “and I think it is fair to say from my perspective, certainly – this is my third dialogue – that this has been perhaps one of the more constructive and productive in terms of the seriousness of the discussion that we’ve had on a very long, comprehensive agenda, with a host of important bilateral, regional, and global issues.

Space-related items

Under the banner of “Cooperation on Science, Technology, and Agriculture” several space-related items have been flagged, including space security, satellite collision avoidance, weather monitoring, climate research, and establishing regular civil space cooperation consultations.

Specifically, these are:

Space: The United States and China decided to establish regular bilateral government-to-government consultations on civil space cooperation. The first U.S.-China Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue is to take place in China before the end of October Separate from the Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue, the two sides also decided to have exchanges on space security matters under the framework of the U.S.-China Security Dialogue before the next meeting of the Security Dialogue.

Earth orbit is a junkyard of human-made space clutter. Credit: Space Junk 3D, LLC. Melrae Pictures

Earth orbit is a junkyard of human-made space clutter.
Credit: Space Junk 3D, LLC. Melrae Pictures

Satellite Collision Avoidance: The United States and China reaffirmed that orbital collision avoidance serves the common interest of the two sides in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The two sides noted that the process for safely resolving an orbital close approach requires further consultation, with a view to building upon existing cooperation between the two sides in order to ensure timely resolution to reduce the probability of accidental collisions. The two sides further decided to continue bilateral government-to-government consultations on satellite collision avoidance and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities as part of the U.S.-China Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue.‎

Joint Research on Severe Weather Monitoring: The United States and China decided to enhance data and information exchange and cooperation on joint research and development of monitoring, warning, and risk assessment technologies for severe weather and climate, such as hurricanes (typhoons), strong convective weather events, droughts, high temperatures, and heat waves. These efforts are intended to jointly improve the two sides’ ability to respond to severe weather and climate events.

Credit: Courtesy of SOHO/[instrument] consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Credit: Courtesy of SOHO/[instrument] consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

NOAA-CMA Joint Research and Greenhouse Gas Monitoring: The United States and China decided to strengthen joint research between the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the China-U.S. Science and Technology Agreement. These efforts are intended to improve the continuity of networks and enhance capabilities for observing and understanding the behavior of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Climate Science and Climate Services: The United States and China enhanced cooperation and research in the areas of climate science and climate services, including extended-range forecasts, drought monitoring outlooks, El Nino-Southern Oscillation monitoring, outlooks of tropical atmosphere Madden-Julian Oscillation and monsoon monitoring. The two sides decided to enhance bilateral cooperation in climate services under the Global Framework for Climate Services.

Operational Forecast and Service of Space Weather: The United States and China enhanced cooperation and exchange in space weather monitoring programs, forecasts and services.

Tangible benefits

In remarks signaling the end of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang noted: “With two days of intensive and orderly work, the seventh round of China-U.S. economic dialogue has achieved a full success. The two sides conducted candid and in-depth exchange of views on issues of overarching, long-term and strategic importance to the two economies and the world economy and reached over 70 important outcomes.”

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi observed: “The two sides agreed to enhance exchanges and cooperation on counterterrorism, nonproliferation, law enforcement, and anti-corruption; space, science, and technology; customs, health, agriculture, forestry, transport, and local exchanges with a view to bring more tangible benefits to the people of our two countries.”

On November 14, 2014, Wang Zhaoyao, Director of the China Manned Space Agency, held a conversation with the delegation of NASA chief Charles Bolden.  Credit: CMSE

On November 14, 2014, Wang Zhaoyao, Director of the China Manned Space Agency, held a conversation with the delegation of NASA chief Charles Bolden.
Credit: CMSE

TBD: Where’s NASA?

Regarding the China and U.S. space agenda items, Marcia Smith, space policy analyst at SpacePolicyOnline.com commented:

“NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have been prohibited by law from dealing with China on space cooperation on a bilateral basis for several years,” Smith noted.

The prohibition was originally inserted in the appropriations bills that fund NASA by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chaired the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee before retiring last year, Smith explained.

The final law that he put in place (P.L. 113-235, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015), which is in effect today, Smith added, states that no funds may be spent by NASA or OSTP to “develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by law after the date of enactment of this Act.”

The new House CJS chairman, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), agrees with Wolf’s position and the prohibition is continued in the House-passed version of the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (H.R. 2578), Smith said.

NASA chief, Charles Bolden, with Wang Zhaoyao, Director of the China Manned Space Agency, during meeting last November. Credit: CMSE

NASA chief, Charles Bolden, with Wang Zhaoyao, Director of the China Manned Space Agency, during meeting last November.
Credit: CMSE

Future meetings

“The agreement signed by Kerry reflects State Department activities with China, which are not prohibited by law,” Smith posted on her website.

“The State Department has a Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs — often referred to as Oceans, Environment and Science (OES) — that oversees international civil space cooperation and presumably will be the official host of these [future U.S. – China space] meetings. If and how NASA will be involved apparently is yet to be determined,” Smith concluded.

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