Argentina joins The Artemis Accords, affirming Outer Space Treaty; China is not pleased

Special to, August 2, 2023


By Richard Fisher

To its credit, the Biden Administration is using space diplomacy on Earth to upset China’s plans for global and space hegemony.

On July 27, as Chinese Politburo Member Li Hongzhong was celebrating China’s proliferation of nuclear weapons to North Korea as a star guest in Kim Jong-Un’s parade marking the 70th Anniversary of the 1953 Korean War Armistice, in Buenos Aries, Argentina was signing on as the 28th member of the Artemis Accords.

Argentine Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Daniel Filmus signs the Artemis Accords on July 27 in Buenos Aries, as Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson look on. / NASA

The Artemis Accords, established under the leadership of the Trump Administration in 2020, between the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. State Department, essentially affirms the 1967 Outer Space Treaty forbidding military activities on the Moon and pledging to peaceful behavior on the Moon with transparency.

NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson flew to Buenos Aires in Argentina so that Argentine President Alberto Fernandez could witness the signing of the Accord by Daniel Filmus, Argentine Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Apparently not present at the signing ceremony was current Argentine Vice President and previous President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.

President Fernandez has been the main force pushing Argentina into a deeper strategic and military embrace of China, to include coming close in 2015 to concluding deals to buy 24 Chinese JF-17 4.5 generation multi-role combat jets, 100 Norinco wheeled armored combat vehicles and up to five Chinese-designed corvette combat ships.

China desperately wants to engineer a new Argentine-British war over the Falklands Islands in which soon to be realized Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups come to the rescue, defeating the British and their allied American “colonialists,” to then be recognized as the new dominant strategic power in Latin America.

Fortunately, the China-Argentina military deals were not realized, but the main Christina Fernandez China-military legacy has been a 2012 agreement to allow China to build a space tracking and control base in Argentina’s Nequen Province.

In reality, this base is controlled by the new Strategic Support Force (SSF) of the People’s Liberation Army, which controls all of China’s space launch and space tracking facilities.

The SSF controls almost all Chinese space activities to include its increasingly offensive space warfare posturing in Low Earth Orbit, and it would be responsible for PLA military operations on the Moon.

This base will also help guide new PLA Fractional Orbital Bombardment strategic missiles armed with nuclear warhead equipped Hypersonic Glide Vehicles, that will be transiting Antarctica and then flying north on their way to bomb targets in the United States.

Washington does not ask that countries cease space cooperation with China as a requirement for signing onto the Artemis Accords, which is an agreement of principles, not a treaty.

But in doing so, Artemis signatories are welcome to contribute to and to join multilateral programs for Moon exploration or even commercial exploitation, that are led by the United States.

The Artemis 4 and 5 missions to send explorers to the Moon will include astronauts from European countries and to the degree that it seeks to contribute to Moon exploration, Argentina conceivably could undertake projects or even send citizens to the Moon.

However, joining China’s International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) requires also joining the ILRS Cooperation Organization (ILRSCO), an organization paid for, located in, and controlled by China.

During his visit Director Nelson took a pot shot at China, saying:

Satellite imagery has confirmed that there is ice on parts of the moon. If you have water in abundance then you have hydrogen and oxygen, you have rocket fuel…And that is why China has announced it’s going to the South Pole. Our mission is one of peaceful purposes for all people. You decide what China’s mission is. I’m not going to say.

China’s reply came in the July 31 state media China Daily, which lashed out:

Nelson’s visit to hype up a so-called “space race” is believed to have an important intent to provoke and disrupt China-Argentina space cooperation.

It then went on to say, “there have been continuous rumors and insinuations from the US side, making baseless accusations of the ‘military purposes’ of China’s space cooperation with Argentina…Nelson’s recent scaremongering is a reflection of the US’ hegemonic ambition to dominate both the Earth and space.”

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