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Cablegate: Data Exchange Issue Discussed at Noaa-Soa Marine Science

VZCZCXRO3424
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHBJ #4250/01 3230835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 180835Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0915
INFO RUCPDC/NOAA NMFS WASHDC
RUEAHLC/DHS WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC 0737
RHMFIUU/NSF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUWDQAC/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//DCO/CG-5/CG-51/CG-51-M//
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 9537
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0013
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 9521
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 9199
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0730
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7105

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 004250

STATE FOR OES AND EAP/CM
REQUEST CG-51-M PLEASE PASS TO OGMSA

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TSPL SENV TSPA PGOV PREL MARR CH
SUBJECT: DATA EXCHANGE ISSUE DISCUSSED AT NOAA-SOA MARINE SCIENCE
FORUM

REFTEL: BEIJING 3939

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: During meetings at the margins of the World Ocean
Week and U.S.-China Marine Science Forum in Xiamen November 7-10,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant
Administrator for Research Dr. Richard Spinrad raised with State
Oceanic Administration (SOA) Deputy Administrator CHEN Lianzeng the
chronic issue of SOA not fulfilling its commitment to grant
real-time or near real-time access to data from its Haiyang 1 (HY-1)
ocean satellite. (NOTE: SOA currently shares one month-old HY-1
data, which according to NOAA provides no value to operational
oceanic and atmospheric forecasts and predictions. (REFTEL) END
NOTE) SOA raised several concerns but in the end tentatively agreed
to refer the issue to the longstanding NOAA/SOA Ocean Data Panel to
define potential restrictions and the most timely method for
carrying out the data exchange. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Over the course of several days of discussions with Chen
and other SOA officials, SOA raised several concrete objections to
NOAA's request to receive "timely" access to HY-series data. Chen
drew clear lines that SOA indicated it would not cross, but did open
the door to the possibility of stripping out "coastal data" and
passing to NOAA only "open ocean data," and committed to letting the
NOAA/SOA Ocean Data Panel discuss how to set up the exchange
mechanism with the least amount of lag time.

3. (SBU) The objections Chen raised were firmly rooted in "national
security considerations" and activities that would be considered
"illegal" under Chinese law, i.e., allowing foreign entities access
to data or information of strategic significance is not permitted.
In particular, Chen referenced the denial of a 2006 request by SOA
to then-NOAA Administrator Lautenbacher to share U.S. Navy
hydrographic data collected in the Taiwan Strait, noting that the
"the inclination not to share data due to security concerns also
exists on the U.S. side as well." Spinrad emphasized that the
previous Chinese request involved U.S. Navy data, which NOAA has no
authority to share, whereas Chinese HY data is "owned" by SOA for
scientific applications. In response to Spinrad's suggestion that
NOAA and SOA should agree to focus the data exchange discussions
only on data "owned" by NOAA and SOA respectively, Chen refused,
saying that all such issues "are related."

4. (SBU) Chen later added, however, that he hoped the nearly 30
years of NOAA/SOA cooperation in marine science would not be
derailed by this one point of contention, and that the two sides
could use the Marine Science Forum (which took place the following
day) to refocus on areas of "mutual" priority and benefit. Spinrad
agreed that the forum would be useful for beginning to identify
areas of collaboration for the next two years, but he was certain
that most if not all joint research being considered would be
dependent upon the availability of a continuous and reliable stream
of raw data, and that this issue needs to move forward.

5. (SBU) At Spinrad's suggestion to focus on what data SOA would in
fact be comfortable sharing (without necessarily contravening
Chinese security laws), Chen finally agreed to allow SOA officials
to work with NOAA to set procedures for sharing on a trial basis
"open ocean" (not "coastal") data from HY-1, with every effort made
toward streamlining the process and reducing the time lag. NOAA and
SOA later agreed to allow their jointly-composed Ocean Data Panel of
experts to meet in coming months to deliberate over and recommend
mutually-acceptable procedures.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Although this data issue has been ongoing for
several years now, the conversations in Xiamen marked the first time
in recent memory Post has heard an SOA official as high-ranking as
Chen tie the denial of timely HY-1 coastal data directly to China's
military concerns, or to hydrographic activities carried out by the
U.S. Navy. NOAA left the meetings hopeful by the commitment it
managed to extract from SOA to exchange "open ocean" data as a basis
for future exchanges. However, the fact that SOA refused to have
the results of these sidebar discussions summarized in the Marine
Science Forum minutes perhaps gives some indication of SOA's only
moderate commitment to following through with this agreement. END
COMMENT

BEIJING 00004250 002 OF 002

7. (U) This cable has been cleared by NOAA Office of Oceanic and
Atmospheric Research.

RANDT

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