Beijing: Pakistan on Wednesday said that it would like to its astronaut as the "first candidate" when China opens up its future space station to foreigners.
"If China starts taking foreign astronauts to outer space, we would like to be the first candidate," said Ahmed Bilal, chairman of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission.
Bilal said this after a Chinese space official said that they are willing to open its future space station to foreigners.
"We would like to train astronauts from other countries and organisations that have such a demand, and we would be glad to provide trips to foreign astronauts," said Yang Liwei, China`s first man to space.
China and Pakistan are all-weather friends, with the Communist nation providing economic, military and technical assistance to the neighbour and each considering the other a close strategic ally.
"We will also welcome foreign astronauts who have received our training to work in our future space station," said Yang, who is now the deputy director of China Manned Space Agency.
Yang told the state-run China Daily newspaper that China had received many such requests during the course of building a permanent station to be completed in 2020.
China launched an experimental space station, the Tiangong 1, in 2011, and has since sent two crewed missions to dock with it. The station is due be replaced in seven years by a much larger permanent one, the three-module Tiangong 2. It will weigh about 60 tons, about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station (ISS).
Yang`s 2003 flight made China only the third country after Russia and the US to put a person in space on its own, and was followed by a string of successful manned missions.
Yang was speaking at a human space technology workshop organised jointly with the United Nations, Beijing`s latest step toward aligning its programme with those of other nations.