November 6, 2009 / 11:01 AM / 10 years ago

Hu says China seeks peaceful use of airspace

The Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship, the Long-March II-F rocket and the escape tower are transferred to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province September 20, 2008. REUTERS/China Daily

BEIJING (Reuters) - China supports the peaceful exploration and use of space, President Hu Jintao said on Friday, days after its top air force officials sparked concerns with talk of a “Great Wall of steel in the blue sky.”

Chinese air force commander Xu Qiliang had told the official Xinhua news agency that competition between military forces was naturally “shifting to space,” and the strong trend could not be reversed.

But on Friday, Hu reassured foreign air force delegations that China was committed to peaceful development and cooperation with all countries, Xinhua said.

“China will unswervingly uphold a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, and will never seek military expansion and an arms race, and will never constitute military threat to any other country,” Hu was quoted as saying.

The delegations are in Beijing for a military forum to mark the 60th founding anniversary of China’s air force.

A space race between Asia’s major and emerging powers has been building in recent years, with China, Japan and India all launching unmanned Moon missions since 2007 and harboring plans for manned lunar expeditions.

Reporting by Huang Yan and Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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