Theft Report Is a 'Farce,' China Says

March 15, 1999 - The New York Times

China's state news agency Sunday rejected assertions that its spies stole nuclear-weapon designs from the United States as a "farce" and a "fabrication" by forces out to sabotage Chinese-American relations.

In a commentary from its Washington bureau, the New China News Agency singled out an article in The New York Times that first publicly revealed the official suspicions of espionage, saying it set off a "smear campaign against China."

American investigators, the Times article on March 6 said, suspect that in the late 1980s Chinese spies learned the American design of an advanced, small nuclear warhead, and believe spying efforts have continued. Last week, the prime suspect in the case, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was dismissed for security infractions, though he has not been charged with a crime.

"The whole story is a complete fabrication," said Sunday Chinese commentary, and has "fanned up a hullabaloo among anti-China witch-hunters on the Capitol Hill and the press."

Previously, China's foreign minister denounced the assertions of nuclear spying as "irresponsible" and "unfounded," but Sunday's dispatch was China's strongest denunciation yet of the accusations.

It is no coincidence, the commentary said, that the accusations appeared as the two countries were preparing for the visit in April of Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to Washington. "In Washington, whenever there is a visit by leaders between China and the United States, there is a crusading farce against Beijing," it said. "Some Americans concocted such stories as "political donations" and "satellite secrets leakage" just before exchanges of visits in the past two years."

"The 'lab theft' story, cooked up by anti-China forces in the United States, is also designed to press the Clinton administration into giving up its policy of 'constructive engagement' with China," the article said. "This shortsighted attempt will get nowhere."

"The fabrication of 'news' out of political opportunism is an insult to the motto cherished by The New York Times, which says 'all the news that's fit to print,' " it said. "The distortion of facts by a few congressmen shows that they are irresponsible in dealing with serious political matters."

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