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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Chinese anger at US claims

US report says China benefitted from 20 years of nuclear espionage

China has reacted angrily to American allegations that it has spent the past two decades stealing nuclear secrets.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry describes the allegations as groundless slander, aimed at whipping up anti-China sentiment in the United States.

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt: "Tensions look set to grow"
China also accuses the US of trying, in part, to draw attention away from Nato's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

The Cox Committee report into nuclear espionage at US military sites, which is being released on Tuesday, is expected to say that China is able to build advanced nuclear weapons based on technology stolen from American defence laboratories.

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said: "The attempt to stir up feelings about a China threat" in the US would not work.

"Some Americans are stubbornly clinging to a Cold War mentality and are making a great effort to dream up stories about China spying on US nuclear technology," Zhu said, adding: "Their despicable attempt is doomed to fail."

Meanwhile, an official at the Defence Ministry in Beijing said China had never stolen secrets from any other country, including the US.

China and Clinton

Beijing would like the Clinton administration to distance itself from the report and its conclusions.

Correspondents say most Chinese analysts and diplomats believe the spying allegations are mainly to do with American domestic politics, and are a way for the president's opponents to cause him difficulties.

BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt says tensions are set to grow between China and the US government.

He points to the harsh criticism in the US of the Clinton administration for being "too soft on China", and the high level of suspicion in Beijing following the embassy bombing.

China has called for a full investigation and is waiting impatiently for an response.

Strained relations

There have been a series of blows to the US-China relationship since the euphoria of President Clinton's trip to China last June.

With his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, Mr Clinton proclaimed a "constructive strategic partnership" and the two leaders agreed to differ on issues like human rights.

But in the wake of the attack on its embassy, China cut military co-operation and suspended a human rights dialogue with the US, insisting the Nato raid was intentional.

There was outrage on the streets, and thousands of stone-throwing protestors surrounded the US embassy in Beijing for three days.

Other issues dogging China-US relations are

  • their failure to agree on a formula for China's entry into the World Trade Organisation
  • the continuing issue of Taiwan
  • American condemnation of human rights abuses in China.

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