The U.S. State Department, in coordination with other agencies from President Joe Biden’s administration, is seeking a six-month extension of the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement (STA) that is due to expire on August 27.
The short-term extension comes as several Republican congressional members voiced concerns that China has previously leveraged the agreement to advance its military objectives and may continue to do so.
The State Department said the brief extension will keep the STA in force while the United States negotiates with China to amend and strengthen the agreement. It does not commit the U.S. to a longer-term extension.
“We are clear-eyed to the challenges posed by the PRC’s national strategies on science and technology, Beijing’s actions in this space, and the threat they pose to U.S. national security and intellectual property, and are dedicated to protecting the interests of the American people,” a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday.
But congressional critics worry that research partnerships organized under the STA could have developed technologies that could later be used against the United States.
“In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) organized a project with China’s Meteorological Administration — under the STA — to launch instrumented balloons to study the atmosphere,” said Republican Representatives Mike Gallagher, Elise Stefanik and others in a June 27 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“As you know, a few years later, the PRC used similar balloon technology to surveil U.S. military sites on U.S. territory — a clear violation of our sovereignty.”
The STA was originally signed in 1979 by then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter and then-PRC leader Deng Xiaoping. Under the agreement, the two countries cooperate in fields including agriculture, energy, space, health, environment, earth sciences and engineering, as well as educational and scholarly exchanges.
The agreement has been renewed roughly every five years since its inception.
The most recent extension was in 2018.