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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 28, July 1998

Senate Row over Satellite Exports to China

On 14 July, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican - Mississippi) provoked strong criticism from Democratic Senators by appearing to prejudge the outcome of ongoing investigations into US policy on satellite exports to China. Addressing Senate, Lott stated that there was

"overwhelming" evidence of a "de facto policy designed to protect China and US satellite companies from sanctions under US proliferation law." The accusation against the Clinton Administration is that its policy, particularly in the wake of two failed satellite launches (see last issue for details), led to militarily useful information on ballistic missiles, particularly guidance-systems, being made available to China. According to Lott, there had been "a clear and uncontested military benefit for China... The jury is still out on how much satellite exports enhance China's ballistic missile programs."

On 15 July, Robert Kerrey (Democrat - Nebraska), Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which has been conducting hearings into the issue since May, said Lott's remarks "put our ability to function at great risk. ... He could not pass up the opportunity to turn our partially completed efforts into momentary political advantage."

Another Senator closely involved in the investigations, Carl Levin (Democrat - Michigan), added on the same day: "To my knowledge, not one of the senate Committees investigating the allegations have reached these conclusions."

Report: Senate leader says US satellites helped China, Reuters, 14 July; Democrats on Senate panel blast Lott comments, Reuters, 16 July.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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