Executive Intelligence Review


Maritime and Space Silk Road on Portugal’s Agenda for Xi’s Forthcoming State Visit

Nov. 29, 2018 (EIRNS)—Portugal is insisting in its discussions with China that an Atlantic Route be included in the Maritime Silk Road, Portuguese state press agency Lusa emphasized in its Nov. 23 coverage on the Dec. 4-5 visit of President Xi Jinping to Portugal. That Atlantic Route “would allow the Sines port to connect the routes of the Far East to the Atlantic Ocean, benefitting from the expansion of the Panama Canal,” Lusa wrote.

This Atlantic Route is a project which the Schiller Institute has emphasized as crucial for linking the entire Western Hemisphere with the Belt and Road Initiative, and specifically for transforming the Caribbean Basin region into a world-class industrial and logistics center, with all the benefits that would provide the United States and its Caribbean, Central American, and South American neighbors.

In a Nov. 23 press conference on Xi’s upcoming visit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister for European Affairs Wang Chao praised the “active cooperation” between Portugal and China in third countries, in Africa and Ibero-America. The visit aims to raise the two nations’ strategic partnership to a new level, he said. A joint statement is expected on the “results of the visit and important consensus,” and cooperation agreements in the fields of culture, education, infrastructure, technology, water resources, finance and energy will be signed, Lusa reported.

Details of the space cooperation agreement, which will build microsatellites for oceanographic research between Chinese and Portuguese scientists and researchers during the visit, were reported by the online publication SpaceWatch.Global on Nov. 8. A laboratory called STARlab, with facilities in Matosinhos and Peniche in Portugal, and in Shanghai, is to be established to build microsatellites for oceanographic research. Detailed research will be directed to study the interactions between oceanography and agriculture and fisheries.

The organizations involved are the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Tekever aerospace company in China, and the Center for Product Engineering and Development in Portugal. The Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education Manuel Heiter said that STARlab will cost $57 million, split evenly between both countries.

At the same time, Portugal announced that it plans to build a spaceport on the island of Santa Maria, in Portugal’s Azores, which it hopes will be operational in 2021. In what could play a part in the “Space Silk Road,” the Azores, in the middle of the North Atlantic, provide a geographic advantage for launches, as well as a “unique position between Europe, the Americas, and Africa,” says the website of the proposed Atlantic International Satellite Launch Program. Portugal plans to select a contract for the spaceport next year.