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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 26, May 1998

US Congress Seeks to Halt Technology Transfers to China as Loral Controversy Deepens

On 21 May, in an amendment to the $270 billion Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization Bill, the US House of Representatives voted by 412 votes to 6 to prohibit the export of missile equipment and technology to China, and by 414 votes to 7 to prohibit US citizens from participating without permission in any investigation into a failed satellite launch, as a precaution against missile- and weapons-sensitive information being passed on, directly on inadvertently, to China.

The second vote was inspired by the current controversy over the alleged diversion of sensitive information following the failed launch of a Chinese missile carrying a satellite built by the US firm Loral Space and Communications (see last issue for background). On 22 May, it was reported that declassified documents provided strong evidence that President Clinton's approval of Loral's involvement in a further satellite launch was made in the knowledge that the company's conduct in the wake of the failed launch was already regarded as suspicious and possibly illegal. Both Clinton and Loral have denied that either party acted with impropriety. The matter is complicated by the issue of donations to the Democratic Party by both Chinese donors and the Chair of Loral, Bernard Schwartz.

White House spokesperson Mike McCurry slammed both votes on 21 May: "Because we've got a little political controversy under way here in Washington, some members of Congress are urging that we blow up this relationship, and I think that that is very short-sighted." The same day, China urged the Administration to block the amendments. According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhu Bangzao: "We ask the US Government to take effective measures to block these anti-Chinese resolutions from becoming laws, to prevent damaging Sino-US relations..."

Reports: China urges US to block anti-Beijing resolutions, Reuters, 21 May; W. House denounces House vote on China, Reuters, 21 May; House approves Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization Bill, United States Information Service, 22 May; Clinton stands by satellite decision, United Press International, 23 May; White House knew of Loral charges, Reuters, 23 May; Loral CEO says China trade waiver 'routine', Reuters, 24 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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