Report Finds China Stole
Data On Top American
Nuclear Warhead
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A comprehensive new analysis by U.S. intelligence officials has concluded that China stole design information about the United States' most advanced nuclear warhead from a government nuclear weapons lab, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The intelligence report is expected to be presented to the Clinton administration and Congress on Wednesday, the newspaper said, quoting unnamed government officials.
The White House, citing other intelligence sources, has previously said evidence of Chinese atomic espionage is less conclusive, the Times said.
The new report looks at a key finding of a select congressional committee that has probed allegations of illegal transfers of high technology to China, the Times said. It also includes a broad examination of the development of China's nuclear weapons capabilities over the last few decades.
The committee, chaired by California Republican Representative Christopher Cox, embraced findings of Energy Department analysts who concluded that China stole design data for the W-88 nuclear warhead from the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in the 1980s and the theft was critical to Beijing's development of a modern miniaturized nuclear warhead.
The new intelligence analysis determined that China did benefit from espionage through the theft of W-88 warhead design data from Los Alamos, the Times said. But it also found China had procured sensitive nuclear data from non-secret sources, including academic exchanges and unintentional leaks by scientists, the newspaper said.
The newspaper said it could not determine details of the intelligence community's damage assessment before Wednesday's scheduled release. Much of the study will remain classified and officials would not say whether the report addresses evidence that China has stolen other U.S. nuclear designs more recently, the Times said.
Although Energy Department officials have raised concerns about evidence of Chinese espionage at Los Alamos since 1996, a 1997 CIA report was used by the White House to downplay Energy officials' conclusions, the Times said. U.S. President Bill Clinton also said as recently as last month that it was not yet certain that Chinese espionage had occurred.
The release of the new study comes at a time of anger over the administration's early responses to reports of Chinese atomic espionage. Evidence of Chinese nuclear spying has prompted a series of probes in both Congress and the executive branch.