by Luis Dufaur
The installation of a Chinese space station in Argentina’s Patagonia, not far from the border with Chile, has caused serious concerns in the region, the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación reported.
Construction of the base began even without the required approval of the Argentine Congress after the signing of an agreement between President Cristina Kirchner and her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jiping.
The worst fear is that it will be used for military purposes.
The base is being hastily built in the desert town of Bajada del Agrio in the province of Neuquén on the Andes foothills, not far from the Chilean border and nearly 860 miles from Buenos Aires.
Félix Menicocci, secretary general of the National Commission of Space Activities (CONAE), declared in the Senate that it must approve the agreement and that "there will be no Chinese military personnel [involved] in the project." He also disregarded the global geopolitical effects of the controversial Chinese space station in Argentina.
According to CONAE's official version of the affair, the base would not be able to track missiles, but senior officials in the Ministry of Defense disagree.
The populist Argentine government claims that the project will generated a lot of money. The base will house "10 Chinese scientists throughout the year and 25 others in rotation."
The Argentine Planning Minister, Julio De Vido issued lavish praise for Argentine human resources and of the country's experience in developing Earth observation satellites and a satellite launcher, the Tronador II.
But he failed to say that Argentina will have no control over what happens in the Chinese base. Not only will the project be exempt from taxes, but the two hundred workers laboring day and night in the new facility will be neither Argentine nor be governed by the country's labor laws.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Buenos Aires said that "the alleged loss of Argentine sovereignty does not correspond to reality and is nothing but absurd talk." In Buenos Aires, however, no one believes the "Chinese tale."
The nationalist hypocrisy of the leftist Peronist government is becoming obvious. Argentine nationalists, always cozily in bed with socialism and communism and obsessively anti-American, would cry bloody murder if an Argentine government were to make a similar deal with the United States. But since this agreement favors Red China, heir to Mao Zedong, the same nationalists favor it, snuff out all reactions, and pretend it is insignificant when the agreement is denounced loud and clear.
This base is one of Beijing's most coveted dreams in Argentine territory, La Nación added.
The agreement between Argentine nationalists and Chinese communists includes "reserved attachments" held in strict secrecy. Only parts of it are known to the lawmakers that must approve the agreement.
For the Argentine Armed Forces, the case is very serious, as Beijing will be able to use the 200-hectare Chinese space station for military purposes in the immediate future.
The tax-exempt concession will have a 50-year duration, and the base will be manned with Chinese personnel and be subject to Chinese law.
According to Neuquen Province's Secretary of Public Management, Rodolfo Laffitte, if the current pace of construction is kept the spatial antenna will be active by February 2015.
Depending on the Chinese activities, Argentina will only be able to use the station for 10% of the available time.
According to specialist Felipe de la Balze, the technology being installed is dual-use, civil and military. "It has military uses of enormous importance that could get our country involved in a future military conflict between the United States and China."