China Grabbed Two US
Cruise Missiles, Alleges Magazine
WASHINGTON (AFP) - China reportedly seized two U.S. cruise missiles that failed to detonate in last year's U.S. attacks on suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Newsweek magazine says in its issue appearing Monday.
Amid accusations that China has been stealing U.S. nuclear secrets since the 1980s, this fresh allegation is certain to add fuel to the fire as President Bill Clinton (pictured in archive photo) defends his policy of rapprochement with China.
The cruise missiles were allegedly obtained by China following U.S. air strikes against Afghani sites linked to wanted terrorist Ossama bin Laden in August 1998, the weekly said.
The U.S. raids were launched in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
U.S. intelligence agencies are now worried that China may try to copy the weapons' sophisticated guidance and avionics technology, Newsweek said.
The news follows recent reports that a Chinese-American scientist may have leaked classified information on U.S. weapons technology from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
President Bill Clinton has come under fire from members of Congress who accuse him of sweeping the problem under the rug to avoid criticism of his China policy.
But the Clinton administration has denied dragging its feet in response to the spying threat and the president ordered a broad review of security measures at all U.S. nuclear labs on Thursday.
Newsweek quoted an unnamed official close to the investigation as saying that "the Chinese penetration" into U.S. nuclear labs "is total."
"They are deep, deep into the labs' black programs," he told the weekly.
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson downplayed the Newsweek report in a television interview on Sunday, calling it "an over-exaggeration."
"There's a lot of hysteria out there and that is unfounded," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We have taken aggressive measures" such as security checks on visitors to the labs and a doubling of the counter-intelligence budget, he added.
"We believe the measures we've taken are addressing the problem," Richardson said.