A new defense research agreement with Brazil can help the U.S. military counter China’s space infrastructure ambitions in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. Southern Command commander told Congress on Wednesday, March 11.
“Beijing sees immense value in South America’s strategic location for space activity and is actively pursuing additional access to regional space infrastructure,” SOCOM Commander Admiral Craig Faller said in written testimony.
China’s government maintains a space facility in Argentina that U.S. officials suspect is being used for military purposes, such as monitoring U.S. military satellites.
Beijing insists the facility is for civilian scientific research, and Chinese media has credited the site with enabling the country’s unmanned probe mission to the dark side of the moon last year.
SOUTHCOM’s commanders have expressed concern in recent years about inroads made by China and Russia into Latin American infrastructure projects and military equipment provisions to local governments in the hemisphere.
“Fortunately we’re pushing with countries, good partners like Brazil, to increase our access and our cooperation [on] space. I think there’s some real opportunity there with some of the agreements we’ve signed with Brazil over the last year, including this past Sunday,” Faller said Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro signed an agreement Sunday that enables private company partnerships from both countries to access public funds for defense development projects.
The deal will “allow a broad range of technology and defense cooperation that could be included into space,” Faller said Wednesday.
Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Defense Minister Fernando Azeveda e Silva also met with Admiral Faller at SOUTHCOM headquarters near Miami on Sunday.
Bolsonaro’s government has sought to strengthen Brazil’s defense and intelligence partnership with the U.S. as well as increase cooperation on civilian space projects.
Brazil’s parliament passed a measure in November that would allow the launch of U.S. technology from the country’s Alcantara Launch Center, opening the door for further space cooperation.
The U.S. established its Space Force as the six branch of its military in December 2019. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said Russian and Chinese defense technology advances prompted the U.S. to begin treating outer space as a “warfighting domain.”