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China’s Secretive Space Science Base in Argentina Faces Scrutiny

Daniel Kim Views  

It Essentially Functions as an Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, Granting Tax Exemption
Milei Asserts Oversight: ‘We Must Exercise Supervisory Authority

20240412_044216
The Chinese space science base in Neuquen, Argentina. /Source=Argentinian Government

The Chinese space science base in Argentina is finally drawing attention as it may unveil its shroud of mystery. The base insists on secrecy and is strongly suspected of being used for military purposes such as intelligence gathering.

The local daily, Río Negro, reported on the 11th (local time) that the “U.S. State Department has again called for transparency at the Chinese space science base in Neuquen.” This is because Argentina promised to thoroughly review related documents, such as agreements and contracts signed with China concerning the space science base since 2010, amid increasing verbal pressure against China.

An official from the Argentinian Chief of Staff’s Office, equivalent to the Prime Minister’s Office in Korea, stated, “We will carefully examine all public and private documents to ensure there are no issues and check whether there were any secret agreements.”

Recently, the U.S. Southern Commander Laura Richardson visited Argentina and met with President Javier Milei. The Chinese space science base was a major topic at this meeting. The U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Mark Stanley, said, “The Chinese space science base has become the most important issue in U.S.-Argentina bilateral relations. Surprisingly, Chinese military personnel secretly work in Neuquen. Who knows what they’re doing there?”

The controversial Chinese space science base is a facility completed by China in Neuquen Province, Argentina, in 2017 for space research. At the time, under a pro-China leftist government, Argentina provided China with about 200 hectares (494 acres) of land for free and guaranteed its use for 50 years. The Chinese space science base, which is 100% tax-exempt, is essentially an extraterritorial area where Chinese law applies to Chinese nationals working at the facility.

China promised the Neuquen authorities that it would use the base for only 2 hours and 40 minutes daily, but this promise has not been kept. Local media reported that “Only Chinese scientists and technicians work at the base” and that “China has completely blocked access from outsiders.” Most of the Chinese residents are suspected to be members of the People’s Liberation Army, which is why suspicions of military activity persist.

The Chinese space science base, isolated from the outside world, began to face pressure to ensure transparency as a pro-U.S. right-wing government took office in Argentina. President Milei recently said in an interview with a media outlet, “It’s common sense for Argentina to exercise oversight over the Chinese space science base. If China has nothing to hide, what’s the problem with us taking a look?”

However, it seems unlikely that Argentina will immediately inspect the Chinese space science base. The Argentine Chief of Staff’s Office initially said it would send federal government officials to Neuquen to examine the space science base. However, it backed off, saying it would “first look at the documents without on-site inspections.” This suggests hesitation over potential friction with China.

President Milei recently stated, “While I remain committed to centering our diplomacy on the U.S. and Israel, giving up on China is not easy.” Before taking office, he had publicly declared that he would not trade with communist countries like China.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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