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Nation opposes weapons race in outer space
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China is firmly against the militarization of outer space, and will never engage in a space arms race, a senior official said yesterday.

"The ongoing lunar exploration program has no military purposes," Chen Qiufa, vice-minister of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, said on an online chat.

"China will adhere to the principle of peaceful use of space," he said, responding to a question if China will join the global space powers to pursue space military technology.

Instead, he said the task of preventing an arms race in outer space has become "increasingly urgent".

China is worried, he said, because peaceful exploitation of space could be hampered by deployment of weapons in outer space.

The existing international legal regime on outer space has its limitations, and that's an obstacle for peaceful exploitation of space, he said.

As Chinese ambassador for disarmament affairs Hu Xiaodi said earlier at an international meeting, the legal regime falls short in preventing and prohibiting the deployment and use of weapons other than those of mass destruction in outer space. Also, it fails to prevent and prohibit the use or threat of force from Earth's surface against objects in outer space.

China has been trying to get the legal regime rectified since 2002. China and Russia prepared a working paper, "Possible Elements for a Future International Legal Agreement on the Prevention of Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects", in the hope of helping devise a new legal instrument on outer space.

"The international community should pay attention to the threat of arms race in space, and do something as soon as possible (to prevent militarization of outer space)," Chen said.

Two other scientists taking part in the online chat again dismissed the Internet gossip that the first lunar photograph taken by China's first moon orbiter, Chang'e I, might be a fake.

"The photograph is the result of the hard work of more than 17,000 people over four years," said Luan Enjie, chief commander of the Chang'e project. "I hope Chinese compatriots respect our work."

China launched the lunar probe on October 24, and announced that the project had been a complete success when the first lunar image taken by Chang'e I was published on November 26.

The next steps will be the launch of a lunar lander with a rover for a soft landing on the moon, followed by another lander that will collect samples from the moon.

Scientists, however, denied there are plans for a manned flight to the moon.

(China Daily December 5, 2007)

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