08/10/2020, 13.09
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Argentine government grants space base in Patagonia to the Chinese military

by Silvina Premat

The agreement, signed in 2015, became official along with a currency swap worth US$ 18.5 billion. The facility, which has cost US$ 50 million so far, is run by an agency controlled by the Chinese military. For Western experts, it can be used for military purposes. The concessions are too good for China, sayas Argentine analyst.

Buenos Aires (AsiaNews) – Argentina has officially granted China a controversial space station that went into operation two years ago in Patagonia.

The decision followed an explicit request from Chinese President Xi Jinping to his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernandez.

It came in the same week that Argentina's central bank renewed a currency swap with the Chinese central bank for US$ 18.5 billion.

For several observers, the two agreements seal the political-economic alliance of the two countries.

Fernandez signed into the law a bill adopted in 2015. The latter grants China 200-hectare base in Neuquén province with a 50-year tax exemption.

The facility is operated by the Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General agency, which is controlled by the Chinese People's Army, and uses only Chinese personnel.

So far, Beijing has invested US$ 50 million to build the station, which includes a 35-metre antenna. The Argentine government can only use 10 per cent of the operating time of the space observation equipment.

In addition to the "peaceful" exploration of the darker side of the moon, ostensibly China’s reason for the base, European and US experts believe the facility has other purposes as well.

They warn of possible espionage, sabotage and other military activities banned under international treaties.

"The concessions are too favourable to the Chinese government,” said Martín Dinatale, an Argentine journalist and expert, speaking to AsiaNews. “The danger of dual use is latent and the activity taking place there is unknown.”

Dinatale notes that Xi recently promised the Argentine president that he would raise the status of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The current global strategic partnership will become full cooperation, which "implies greater benefits for both parties, but also greater commitments".

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