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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 10:07 GMT
China breaks silence on 'bugged' plane
Jiang Zemin (right)
Reports said China discovered 27 hidden bugs
China has broken its silence on the reported bugging of President Jiang Zemin's US-built personal jet, saying it should have no foreseeable impact on diplomatic relations.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denied any precise knowledge of the incident although he said he had heard the reports.

Bugging scandal - the allegations
27 tiny, satellite-controlled bugs found on plane
Some bugs located in toilet and the headboard of the presidential bed
Bugs gave off static whine during test flights
Correspondents say the spokesman, Sun Yuxi, would not confirm whether President Jiang would raise the issue when US President George W Bush visits Beijing next month.

Articles in both Britain's Financial Times and the Washington Post reported on Saturday that a Boeing 767 airliner manufactured in the US for President Jiang contained at least 27 spying devices.

Mr Sun said China was a "peace-loving country" and offered no threat to other countries.

"So it is of no use to be bugging China," he said.

Chinese investigation

The spying devices were reportedly discovered shortly after the aeroplane's delivery to China last August.

According to the FT, the plane was built at the Boeing factory in Seattle, then fitted out with VIP features by other companies in Texas.

Beijing, which had its own personnel supervising the work in the US, has reportedly launched an investigation.

Twenty Chinese air force officers are being questioned on suspicion of negligence and corruption, and two officials from the China Aviation Supplies Export and Import Corporation are in custody.

Relations between the US and China were strained only last year by another incident involving spying equipment.

A US EP-3 spy plane was forced to land in Chinese territory in April after colliding with a Chinese fighter in what China described as a "provocation".

See also:

20 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Diplomatic silence over 'bugged' plane
19 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Terrorism war unites Bush and Jiang
10 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: China
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