Russia targets building 15 Earth sensing Spacecrafts by 2020

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  • As Philippines, China downplay Duterte’s talk of war in disputed sea

The Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday stated that Russia will build optimize the orbital grouping with at least 15 spacecrafts, operating in the orbit by 2020, to provide remote sensing for Russia.

Putin indicated this on Monday at a meeting he held with the Roscosmos state space corporation officials, to discuss the development of the country’s space industry, according to a Kremlin statement.

“The main issues were the implementation of the Federal Space Programme, the possibility of introducing new types of launch vehicles and the improvement of the remote sensing system of the Earth,’’ he said.

The Russian government approved in March 2016 the nation’s 10-year space programme worth around 20.5 billion dollars, but it was partially cut since then.

According to Putin, the remote sensing system in which Russia has undeniable competitive advantages, needs to be used more actively to benefit national defence and security, the economy, the social sphere, and state administration.

“In order to make remote sensing data available for Russian and foreign consumers it is necessary to consolidate all national resources available and, possibly, involve foreign space vehicles in the process,’’ Putin added.

Putin highlighted that all the funds raised from the provision of remote sensing services should go to the development of the Russian space industry, particularly to further its technical modernisation, and to prospective space research.

In the meantime, the Philippines and China played down on Monday a warning by President Rodrigo Duterte that China would go to war if the Philippines drilled for oil in the disputed South China Sea.

The outspoken Philippine president has been facing criticism at home for being what some people see as too soft on China over a long-running territorial dispute.

Duterte met China’s President Xi Jinping for talks in Beijing last week and later said Xi had warned him there would be war if the Philippines tried to explore for oil in a disputed stretch of sea.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said their meeting was frank and friendly, and the discussion was largely about preventing conflict not threatening it.

“The conversation was very frank. There was mutual respect, there was mutual trust,” Cayetano said.

“The context was not threatening each other that we will go to war. The context is how do we stabilise the region and how do we prevent conflict.

“I will not contradict the president’s words. I am just telling you … my interpretation- there was no bullying or pushing around, it was not a threat.”

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also sought to make light of Duterte’s comments, noting he and Xi had agreed to “strengthen communication” on important bilateral issues.

China was willing to work with the Philippines to handle disputes peacefully, she said.

Duterte made no mention of the issue during an unusually news conference on Monday before he left for Russia.

Duterte’s critics have made much of his refusal to push China to comply with a ruling last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague at the end of a case brought by the Philippines against China, which was largely in favour of the Philippines.

China has never recognised the case.

The court said the Philippines had a sovereign right to access offshore oil and gas fields in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Duterte’s rivals have likened his refusal to insist that China abide by the ruling as akin to surrendering sovereignty.

Senate minority leader, Frank Drilon said the government “should not allow our country to be bullied and threatened,” while former foreign minister Albert del Rosario said Manila should do joint maritime patrols with traditional ally the U. S., an idea he said Duterte had jettisoned as part of his “full embrace of China”.

Duterte chafes at what he considers Philippine subservience to the U.S. and has sought to engage more with China, which has promised loans and investment that will be vital to his ambitious 180 billion dollars infrastructure overhaul.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines was “very clear that we are not giving up our claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

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