NASA chief Michael Griffin met with top Chinese space officials and toured facilities during the first visit to China by a US space agency head.
Griffin, who arrived in Beijing Saturday on a six-day visit to China, held talks Sunday with his Chinese counterpart Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration. Earlier he toured the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and met with its president Yuan Jiayun.
NASA spokeswoman Melissa Mathews said Griffin was in China to establish contact and learn about the country's space program.
"Generally speaking the administrator is coming here to meet his counterpart and to try to understand China and to get to know the space program here so it is really an introductory kind of meeting," she said Sunday.
On Monday Griffin is scheduled to meet with China's minister of science and technology and to deliver a speech to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Plans for Griffin to visit China's rocket launch centre in the Gobi desert "did not work out," Mathews said, adding that on Tuesday he would leave Beijing for Shanghai and return from there Thursday to the United States.
China has long sought closer cooperation with the United States on space but Washington has been lukewarm because of concerns about the involvement of China's military in its space program.
China entered the exclusive rank of top space nations in 2003 when it sent up its first manned mission, joining the United States and Russia.
In 2005 it launched a second orbiting mission with two astronauts, and also hopes to send an unmanned probe to the Moon by 2010.
China spends US$500 million a year on its space programs, according to official figures. NASA's proposed budget for 2007 is nearly 17 billion dollars.
(China Daily via agencies September 25, 2006)