May 30 (Reuters) - A Chinese nonprofit group with ties to the nation's government is coordinating efforts among China's biggest technology firms to develop open-source software with military applications, a U.S.-based defense policy group says.

A report circulated this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based defense policy group, said that China's OpenAtom Foundation is overseeing work on open-source operating systems developed by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. One of those operating systems called OpenHarmony is a variant of the Harmony operating system Huawei developed after U.S. sanctions forced it to cut ties with U.S. technology providers.

OpenAtom appears to be coordinating efforts among Chinese firms to develop a viable alternative to U.S. technologies, including for defense applications such as satellites. OpenAtom spearheaded work to make OpenHarmony suitable for use on Chinese satellites launched last year that can take high-resolution images at low cost, the report said.

Sunny Cheung, an associate fellow for China studies with the Jamestown Foundation, said OpenAtom appears to be a key player in carrying out China's strategy for technological self-reliance, with many of its leaders coming from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and more than 38% of staff having ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

China's foreign ministry declined to comment.

While most of OpenAtom's sponsor companies are Chinese firms such as Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings , U.S. chipmaker Intel is also a sponsor.

"Intel fosters an open ecosystem strategy through its leadership in key groups and foundations around the world to build trust, deliver choice, and ensure interoperability for our industry," Intel said in statement.

The Jamestown Foundation's Cheung said that rather than focus solely on blocking China's technology efforts, U.S. officials examine whether the U.S. government should become involved in promoting its own open-source software priorities, which until now have been largely left to the private sector. Otherwise, Cheung said, China could develop a lead over the U.S. in open-source technologies.

"The U.S. should look into China's example and try to have their own doctrine and protocol to innovate on open source," Cheung said. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates)