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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK

World: Americas

US scientist 'leaked radar secrets'

Keeping submarine movements secret is a top prioirity

A US scientist supplied China with secrets about advanced submarine-tracking radar technology, it has been reported.

Submarine detection technology is closely guarded because the US Navy's ability to hide its submarines is a key military advantage.

Peter Lee - assigned to a classified Pentagon project in 1997 - told Chinese nuclear weapons experts about the radar technology in a lecture he gave in Beijing in May 1997, according to the New York Times.

'Prosecution blocked'

Lee worked for defence contractor TRW Inc, which the Pentagon had hired, said the paper which quoted court records.

Los Angeles federal prosecutors wanted to charge Lee with espionage, but were stopped partly because navy officials did not want details about the radar revealed in court, law enforcement officials said.

The Justice Department in Washington also blocked any prosecution of Lee, the paper reported.

Espionage claim

Lee admitted filing a false statement about his 1997 trip to China and to leaking classified laser data to Chinese scientists during an earlier trip to China in 1985.

In March last year he was sentenced to 12 months with three years' probation and a fine of $20,000, according to the newspaper.

Lee and his lawyer contended the Taiwanese-American scientist made serious mistakes, but never intended to aid China or damage his own country, the Times said.

Arms secrets

The submarine technology in the Lee case was developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a weapons lab in California.

The report follows earlier claims that a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Wen Ho Lee, was suspected of helping China to obtain arms secrets.

China has repeatedly rejected the charge, while Wen Ho Lee last week denied the claims against him.

The Lee case showed Chinese espionage ran deeper than just assertions of theft at the Los Alamos lab, the Times said.

It also illustrated that the US Government believed China was successfully receiving defence secrets during President Clinton's second term in office.

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