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China Eyes European Satellite Navigation System

China is interested in joining Europe’s multi-billion dollar Galileo satellite navigation system, the German Transport Ministry said.

Chinese Science Minister Xu Guanhua told German Transport Minister Kurt Bodewig during a meeting in Berlin he was interested in the project, designed to rival the U.S. Global Positioning System.

“It remains to be clarified whether the Chinese want to take part in the development phase or in operation of the system,” said a transport ministry spokesman. The ministry said it welcomed the interest shown by Xu who will hold talks on the subject in Brussels.

Galileo will be run by civilian bodies and end Europe’s dependence on the military-controlled U.S. system. The European Union says the two networks will be compatible.

Galileo was thrown into doubt in December when a group of EU states refused to release cash for the $3.2 billion project.

But the detractors soon came round when they saw the project made economic sense. In March, EU transport ministers allocated 450 million euros for the four-year development phase of Galileo.

They had already authorized 100 million euros on top of 550 million euros provided by the European Space Agency.

Galileo will be ready for deployment in four years and the EU hopes the private sector will meet two thirds of the cost after that. Public funds will be cut off by 2015.

Galileo will create a network of around 30 satellites and is backed by aerospace and electronics firms such as Airbus, Thales and Eutelsat, who say it will create more than 100,000 jobs.