1 of 5 | A Chinese newspaper reports on the successful landing of the Chang'e-5 lunar probe, at a news kiosk in Beijing, China, on December 17, 2020. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
July 5 (UPI) -- The Chinese government hit back on Tuesday at the head of the American space program over remarks he made in an interview that suggested Beijing is seeking to militarize the moon.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson criticized China in the interview with German newspaper Bild and said there should be concern about Chinese efforts to explore the moon.
"We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out.'" Nelson said according to Newsweek.
Nelson also accused China of learning how to destroy the satellites of other countries in space.
Beijing has significantly ramped up its space program over the last decade and has put a special focus on exploring the moon. It sent its first lunar lander in 2013 and hopes to send astronauts to the moon by 2030 and build a lunar base a few years later. In late 2020, China became the second country to unfurl its flag on the surface of the moon.
In response to Nelson's comments, Chinese officials said there is no intent to militarize the moon and that Beijing has long supported a community of several nations in space.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Nelson's claims were "recklessness and falsehoods."
"Lacking strong expertise and overall understanding of global aerospace developments, Nelson behaves more like a politician that has been deeply influenced by the frictions between the two countries in recent years, as he repeatedly preaches the so-called China threat theory in this field," Huang Zhicheng, a Chinese expert on aerospace science and technology, said according to the state-run Global Times.
"The majority of academicians across the world still wish for the successful construction of China's lunar base."
China also has plans to beat NASA and return Martian rocks to Earth in the early 2030s.