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China downplays Jiang's jet bugging

Jiang, seen here aboard a different aircraft, was reportedly furious at the discovery
Jiang, seen here aboard a different aircraft, was reportedly furious at the discovery  

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- In its first official comment on the matter China says it sees no reason why the reported bugging of President Jiang Zemin's Boeing jet should have any impact on relations between Washington and Beijing.

With preparations under way for next month's summit meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Jiang, analysts believe both countries are eager to prevent the issue scuppering the recent improvement in Sino-U.S. ties.

Reports of the discovery of more than 20 bugs aboard the presidential jet first appeared at the weekend in both the Washington Post and the Financial Times newspapers.

They said Chinese intelligence officers uncovered the listening devices throughout the Boeing 767 purchased in June 2000 to act as Jiang's official jet.

CNN's Jaime FlorCruz looks at reports that a Boeing plane made for China's president may have secret listening devices aboard.

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The bugs were reportedly discovered hidden inside upholstery after the plane had been fitted out for presidential use by a U.S. company.

Devices were said to have been found inside the headboard on the president's bed and even inside Jiang's personal toilet.

Responding to questions on the issue Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told reporters in Beijing Tuesday he could neither confirm nor deny the reported discovery.


"I have heard of this thing but so far I have no knowledge of this," Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told reporters in Beijing Tuesday.

"I don't see this having any impact on other issues," he added.

"But I want to say that if someone wants to bug China that China is a peace-loving country and constitutes no threat to anyone. So it is highly unnecessary to bug China."

Relations between Beijing and Washington have improved dramatically in recent months following the row over a collision last April between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter over the South China Sea.

The pilot of the Chinese jet died in the collision and the crew of the spy plane were held at a Chinese airbase for several weeks during a tense diplomatic standoff over who was to blame for the incident.

Although Jiang was reported to have been privately furious at the discovery of the bugging devices analysts say the distinctly muted public reaction from Beijing indicates that China is keen not to make a fuss ahead of Bush's arrival.

The U.S. president's tour is scheduled to begin on February 21, exactly 30 years after the historic visit by then President Richard Nixon that paved the way for establishing diplomatic ties between Washington and the People's Republic of China.

-- CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz contributed to this report




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