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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 17:43 GMT


World: Asia-Pacific

Clinton orders China 'spying' probe

US scientists may have helped China develop missiles

US President Bill Clinton has ordered a further investigation into allegations China spied on American technology programmes.

Mr Clinton wants a formal assessment of possible damage to national security following a secret study into military and commercial links with China.


[ image: Mr Clinton has been keen to improve ties with China]
Mr Clinton has been keen to improve ties with China
The original investigation, ordered by the US Congress, was prompted by concerns that commercial aerospace companies involved in satellite programmes with the Chinese may have unwittingly helped the country improve the accuracy of its ballistic missiles.

The espionage report found that sensitive technology - including satellite and missile knowhow - had been provided to the Chinese.

It also concluded that US national security had been damaged and accused the Chinese of conducting a full-scale effort to obtain technical secrets stretching back over 20 years.

Damage limitation

But a National Security Council spokesman has made it clear the Clinton administration does not yet share the investigation's conclusion that damage has been done to national security.

In agreeing to launch an investigation of its own, the White House is trying to limit the potential damage to its China policy.

BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the competing demands of US security and commercial concerns highlight the ambiguous nature of Washington's relationship with Beijing.

And he says the real tussle is going to be over future controls on the export of sensitive technologies like satellites and high-speed computers.

The House committee suggested a raft of measures in its espionage study to remedy the situation.

But US companies fear the restrictions will harm their export earnings and hinder their access to China's growing markets.

Powerful ammunition

The Clinton administration has been seeking to separate its many differences with China over issues such as human rights to enable Washington and Beijing to normalise their relations.

But our correspondent says the technology smuggling issue has handed some powerful ammunition to critics of Washington's overtures to Beijing.

Many experts now believe the temperature of China-US ties is unlikely to improve in the near future.





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