China Slams U.S. Nuclear Theft Charge As Baseless
March 7, 1999 - Reuters
BEIJING - Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
dismissed charges that China stole nuclear secrets from the
United States as baseless and "very irresponsible" Sunday.
"The report the New York Times printed is very
irresponsible. It is also without basis," Tang told a news
"I have also noticed that such reports have appeared in the
U.S. recently from time to time," Tang said.
"There are some people who want to stop the United States
from exporting normal high-technology products to China. I think
this will not be beneficial to the interests of the United
U.S. officials say federal authorities are investigating
whether China stole U.S. nuclear secrets and used them to
dramatically boost its own arsenal.
The New York Times reported Saturday that China used stolen
secrets to produce small warheads that could be launched from a
single missile at multiple targets.
The CIA's former chief spy hunter, Paul Redmond, who made
his name by uncovering Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, told the
newspaper the theft had far-reaching consequences.
"This was far more damaging to the national security than
Aldrich Ames," he said.
The espionage was not detected until the CIA analyzed
Chinese nuclear test results and found similarities with
America's most advanced miniature warhead, the W-88, the Times
In 1996, a Chinese-American suspect was identified at the
U.S. Energy Department's weapons lab in Los Alamos. It was not
until this year that the suspect was given a lie-detector test,
which one official said he failed. He was not arrested.
Administration sources said federal agents as recently as
this week questioned a suspect who may have been involved in
stealing top secret documents from the National Laboratory in
Los Alamos, New Mexico, and passing them to Beijing.
Officials said President Clinton was first told in 1997 that
crucial information may have been stolen in the mid-1980s by
The Times quoted critics as saying the investigation into
Chinese espionage had been delayed because the discoveries came
at a politically sensitive time for the Clinton White House.
The information came to light while Congress was
investigating the role of foreign money in the 1996 presidential
campaign and as charges emerged that Beijing had secretly
funneled money to the Democratic Party.
It also coincided with Clinton administration efforts to
strengthen its strategic and commercial links with China.
The Times said the espionage was referred to in a secret
report by a U.S. House of Representatives select committee
investigating the separate transfer of sensitive U.S. technology
to China. The investigation found the theft had harmed national
security, the Times reported.
At the request of the committee, headed by California
Republican Christopher Cox, the CIA and other agencies were
conducting a thorough damage assessment, it said.