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>> In Argentina's remote Patagonian desert, a 16-story structure with a sprawling antenna towers over a barren landscape. This is China's deep space ground station. Almost entirely inaccessible to the public and shrouded in mystery. Reuters correspondent Cassandra Garrison visited the site.>> I'm in Argentina's Neuquén province outside China's deep space observation center which is about a 40 minute drive from the nearby town of Las Lajas.
There's nothing around for miles and the space station is completely enclosed with a fence that has barbed wire on the top. You can see the antenna behind me, there's also several buildings on the premises where the Chinese scientists work and sleep. Unlike other space stations in Argentina, there's no public access at the Chinese base here in Neuquen province.
Also our request to visit as journalists were met with a lot of red tape by Argentine officials who told us that it's simply too difficult to coordinate a visit, that lack of access is one of the things that fuels speculation about the Chinese space center in Argentina and what its true purpose is.
And why most people can't just easily visit or come in and out.>> China's space program is run by its military, the People's Liberation Army. And according to hundreds of pages of Argentine government documents obtained by Reuters and reviewed by international law experts, Argentina has little oversight over the Chinese station to ensure it is being used for civilian purposes.
That has stirred suspicion among residents of Las Lajas sparking wild conspiracy theories.>> My specific opinion is that it is not a scientific research base but rather a military base, a Chinese military base.>> With so much security they have to be protecting something. There do not have to be so many soldiers to just see the moon.
>> US officials also have misgivings. Some say the station's antenna could be used to spy on other governments' satellites and potentially pick up sensitive data. Beijing however insists its space program is just for space exploration.>>
> The mayor is betting people will want to see the space station even if they don't know what's really going on inside.
She's been to the station at least eight times and says the presence of the Chinese in her small town is a boon.>> We have a great plan for tourist development for Las Lajas and we wanted to include the Chinese antenna in this tour package, and they never told us no.