Chinese premier: Nuclear spying a fallacy

March 15, 1999 - AP

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji Monday denied allegations China stole U.S. nuclear weapons secrets and said U.S.-China ties were being sacrificed to partisan struggles in Washington.

Despite the nuclear secrets scandal, Zhu said he still planned to travel to the United States next month. He acknowledged, however, that the visit will be tough, given the espionage allegations and disputes on trade, human rights and Taiwan.

''There has emerged an anti-China wave in the United States. This makes us feel uneasy,'' Zhu said at a news conference after the closing of the legislature's annual session.

''I don't think my visit to the United States will bring me into a minefield but I do expect to encounter some hostile or some unfriendly atmosphere there.''

The post-National People's Congress news conference is the one time each year China's premier faces the domestic and international media and usually covers an array of issues the government is concerned about.

Zhu spent much of the news conference dealing with questions that touched upon ties with the United States, a key indication of how crucial smooth relations are for China in achieving its goals of economic development.

Zhu urged Washington and the European Union to let China into the World Trade Organization after 13 years of negotiations.

But he downplayed speculation that a WTO deal could be struck before his Washington visit, saying ''there remains a considerable gap'' in negotiating positions.

He was unbending on human rights, long one of the most contentious issues with Washington and made worse in recent months by China's jailing of democracy campaigners trying to form a political opposition party.

''Only we know best how we can best protect and preserve human rights in China,'' Zhu said. He added, however, that his government was willing to hold talks on human rights.

On the nuclear scandal, Zhu dismissed claims that China stole U.S. military secrets as ''fallacy.'' He noted that China built its first atomic weapon on its own.

''China is fully capable of developing any military technology. It's only a matter of time,'' he said. ''Why should China have taken such big political and moral risks to steal military secrets from others?''

A Taiwanese-born American scientist, Wen Ho Lee, was fired last week from a U.S. weapons lab amid suspicions that he shared secrets with Beijing.

Zhu noted that investigators have not found enough evidence to arrest Lee and suggested that he was being unfairly targeted.

An official newspaper, the China Daily said Monday that the dismissed scientist visited China in 1985 with his wife who was invited to speak at a conference on ''sophisticated computer topics.''

The Asian Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Lee also was invited to Beijing by the Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics, which does research on nuclear weapons.

Lee presented two technical papers in 1986 and 1988 relating to problems in controlling explosions, the newspaper said.

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