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Congressman calls alleged Chinese spying 'grave'

Cox disputes Clinton's claim he was unaware

May 16, 1999
Web posted at: 7:59 p.m. EDT (2359 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 16) -- The head of a House select committee that investigated China's alleged theft of American nuclear secrets said Sunday that his committee's final report will be "of such gravity that it needs the top attention of policy-makers in Congress and the executive branch."

graphics "I can point to no other country that has stolen so much from the United States and then used that information to build weapons pointed at us," said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-California).

"It is important to recognize that this is not accidental or random. This is part of a directed pattern designed to penetrate military technology and designed to export it illegally," he said.


In this story:

Chinese ambassador denies spying charges
Cox: Report to be released 'very soon'
White House leaking, spinning report, Cox says

In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Cox said China's arsenal of long-range ballistic missiles has gone from two to 20 during the 1990s, with "most of these targeted at the United States."

However, the co-chair of Cox's committee, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Washington), said that while the report points out a "serious failure" in counterintelligence, the Chinese "have not yet done anything with (the nuclear information) in terms of deploying new weapons."

"They have tested some things, and they have the potential to do some things in the future," Dicks said.

Cox disputed a statement on Chinese espionage made by President Bill Clinton, who said at a March news conference, "I can tell you that no one has reported to me that they suspect such a thing has occurred."

Cox said his committee informed the president about its findings on January 3, more than two months before that news conference.

Chinese ambassador denies spying charges

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On Sunday, China's ambassador to the United States, Li Zhaoxing, strongly denied that his country stole U.S. nuclear secrets.

"China is innocent. China is ready to watch the investigation and to watch the possible results of that investigation," Li said. Americans should not "underestimate the wisdom and hard work of the Chinese scientists," who can make the same discoveries U.S. scientists have made.

On CNN's "Late Edition," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) called Li's denials "totally wrong."

"People don't admit spying, and they certainly don't admit penetration of this magnitude," he said. "The Chinese espionage, I believe, is probably the most serious that we have ever had in this country."

Cox: Report to be released 'very soon'

On "This Week," Cox said that the committee's report will be released to the public "very soon," after intelligence officials finish deleting any portions that could compromise U.S. security. He did not give a date.

"The National Security Council and the CIA asked in recent days to take a complete look through the whole report again. That will start on Monday morning, but I'm very confident that we will have it out very soon," he said.

Cox's bipartisan investigation initially focused not on espionage but on two American companies, Hughes Electronics Corp. and Loral Space and Communications, which allegedly supplied rocket technology to the Chinese after the failure in 1995 and 1996 of Chinese rockets carrying U.S. satellites.

While both companies have denied wrongdoing, Cox described their actions as "neither legal nor aboveboard."

"A great deal that the (Clinton) administration thought it knew about these cases was not known until our select committee went and interviewed the scientists that were conducting these exchanges (with China)," he said. "Our laws do not permit this."

White House leaking, spinning report, Cox says

While the report itself remains under wraps, information about its conclusions has leaked to various news organizations, including CNN.

Cox said he was "very unhappy" about the leaks, which he said are "coming rather obviously" from the Clinton administration.

"Much of it is heavily spun," he said. "There is no reason in the world that we should treat this national security information as if it's some political football."

CNN has learned that the report, citing U.S. intelligence sources, concludes that China:

  • obtained secrets about at least seven U.S. nuclear weapons systems and warheads. On that list are several warheads still at the core of the U.S. arsenal, including the W-87 warhead for the MX missile and those used on Minuteman long-range missiles and submarine-based Trident missiles.

  • conducted several tests in the late 1980s of neutron bomb technology, some of it obtained through espionage.

  • obtained several secrets critical to the development of advanced nuclear weapons, including sensitive missile guidance systems and a "rail gun" that uses electromagnetic waves to propel missiles.

A U.S. government official who has seen the Cox report confirmed Saturday to CNN that the report contains those conclusions and added that the Chinese may have obtained "design data" on two of the seven nuclear systems.

However, the official, while saying, "We made life easier for them," cautioned that "there is going to be an effort to politicize this." He noted that the espionage goes back to the Reagan and Bush administrations, who "should have cleaned this up."

Administration officials continue to defend their response to the allegations of Chinese espionage, saying the Clinton administration was the first to do anything about a long-standing problem.

"We know foreign governments want our technology. We know they will go to all lengths to get it," said Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering. "It is incumbent upon us to have the best security practices, constantly to review them, learn the lessons from the past and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Correspondent Chris Black contributed to this report.


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Chinese Embassy to the U.S.

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China's future/Nuclear secrets



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Sunday, May 16, 1999