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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK

World: Americas

US technology 'not properly safeguarded'

US report criticises the Clinton and Bush administrations

By Washington Correspondent Richard Lister

Both the Bush and Clinton administrations failed to ensure that American rocket technology was adequately safeguarded, according to a US Congressional committee report investigating allegations that China gained sensitive material through espionage.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also accuses China of trying to illegally influence the outcome of American elections.

Richard Lister: "This latest report says the US only has itself to blame"
Investigating Chinese espionage has become a major priority in Washington, but this latest report says the US has only itself to blame for the leakage of missile technology to Beijing because of co-operation on satellite launches.

American companies launched more than 30 satellites on Chinese rockets since 1990 because of the lower costs involved. At the same time, the Bush and Clinton administration's had been trying to improve relations with China.

As a result, the Chinese gained access to sensitive technical information which could assist their missile programme the report says.

US policy a 'contradiction'

Senator Bob Kerrey, the senior Democrat on the committee, says there was a clear contradiction in American policy.

"Those companies have an interest in improving China's ability to launch missiles," he said.

"The companies have an interest in doing so because they are putting very expensive satellites on those missiles. From a national security standpoint, however, it is in our interest for China to be less reliable."

The report demands a re-appraisal of the policy together with a number of new safeguards which the Clinton administration says it is already putting in place. An investigation into the alleged Chinese theft of nuclear secrets is continuing.

The report also found that China tried to secretly influence the 1996 American elections through illegal donations to candidates including President Clinton. But the committee found no evidence that the effort had any concrete results.

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