China on Wednesday accused the U.S. of having “weaponized” that the issuance of visas after the reported inability of a high Chinese space program official to receive permission to go to a key conference in Washington.
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Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that the head of the Chinese delegation to the International Astronautical Congress was unable to get a visa following an Oct. 12 interview, which makes it difficult for Chinese agents to attend important events in the meeting.
Reports said the vice chairman of the China National Space Administration, Wu Yanhua, had planned to attend the congress.
Hua said the U.S. has “weaponized” visa issuances and “repeatedly defied international responsibilities and obligations and impeded normal international exchanges and cooperation.”
She stated that”threatened and damaged the legitimate rights and interests of all parties in the worldwide community.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it could not discuss individual visa cases due to privacy problems.
Hua stated that “for some time, the U.S. has frequently rejected and delayed visa applications, revoked long-term visas of Chinese applicants and investigated and harassed the Chinese scholars, students, businesspeople, and scientific and technical personnel.”
China last year launched more missions to orbit than any other nation, and is on track to do the same this season. Those missions include the first-ever soft-landing of a space craft on the far side of the moon.
But, close ties between the Chinese space program and the nation’s military have limited its involvement in multinational efforts, such as the International Space Station. China is rather building its permanent station and has encouraged other nations to join in the endeavor.
The visa episode comes amid a simmering trade war between China and the U.S. in which accusations that China steals or coerces foreign businesses into handing over sensitive technologies have played a significant role.