Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 03:15 GMT 04:15 UK
China 'spying for 20 years'
The report says China has information on every US nuclear weapon
China has been stealing America's most sensitive nuclear secrets "for at least the past several decades" and is almost certainly continuing to do so, according to a US Congressional report.
Beijing could begin testing advanced thermonuclear weapons as early as this year and deploy them by the year 2002, says the report, released on Tuesday.
Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart said the White House did not agree with all of the findings, but most of the recommendations for improved security were "constructive".
It says China intends to use the weapons to ''fulfil its international agenda'', including becoming the ''primary power in Asia''.
The theft "could have a significant effect on the regional balance of power, particularly with respect to Taiwan," it concludes, and the possibility of a US-China confrontation "cannot be dismissed".
Stolen information included details on:
The report adds that one submarine-based and two land-based weapon systems have the capability to reach the US mainland.
Beijing primarily focused on Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge and Sandia national laboratories.
China obtained the information using direct spying and "front companies" in the US, the report says.
The report also picks out two US companies - Loral and Hughes Aircraft - which went "outside the scope" of their export licences to provide China with information, helping to improve the reliability of nuclear missiles.
It says China may have set up around 3,000 "front companies" to act as conduits for technology.
The three-year investigation, led by Republican Congressman Christopher Cox, concludes that despite high-level knowledge of the leaks, little was done to tighten control.
Beijing rejected the report as "groundless" and "highly exaggerated", even before its official publication. It accuses the US of faking information in order to damage China's credibility.
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is expected to announce a series of disciplinary measures against staff within the next few days.
She is under fire for refusing to authorise FBI requests for a communications tap on Taiwanese-born scientist Wen Ho Lee.
Sacked from his position at the Los Alamos weapons research laboratory, he is suspected of passing nuclear secrets to Beijing, although he has not been charged with any crime.