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Interview: Rep. Christopher Cox Discusses Possible Congressional Investigation Of Missile Technology To China

Aired May 20, 1998 - 5:06 p.m. ET

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Joining us now, the Republican tapped to head a proposed House select committee to examine the China connection: Congressman Christopher Cox of California.

Congressman, is another committee to investigate the president really necessary here?

REP. CHRISTOPHER COX (R), CALIFORNIA: I don't think that it's necessary to investigate the president in connection with what "The Christian Science Monitor" and "The New York Times" have disclosed.

Rather, what concerns me, and I think concerns Democrats and Republicans alike, is the story in the newspapers that there has been missile technology, specifically technology that will make Chinese ICBMs more reliable and accurate, transferred to the People's Liberation Army.

This effectively means that a nation that has 70 percent of its long-range ICBMs, the nuclear missiles in its arsenal, targeted on the United States of America, will have those weapons be more accurate in consequence of something that was apparently in violation of U.S. law.

WOODRUFF: How can you persuade the American people that this is going to be a nonpartisan investigation, when some of the statements coming from Speaker Gingrich and from other Republicans so far sound as if they've already made up their minds that something illegal happened here.

COX: Well, there are two very distinct categories of things to be looked into here and the select committee, of which I will become the chairman, is responsible only for one of those things. The campaign finance business, which is certainly related to the allegations that I've seen in the newspapers, and so have you, is not the subject of what we will undertake.

Rather, we're going to put together a very small group appointed by the minority leader, Mr. Gephardt, and the speaker, who are expert in intelligence on national security matters, as well as international relations and commerce. All of those committees put together a hopefully collegial, small working group that can handle classified information with great sensitivity and discretion.

WOODRUFF: As you may know, Congressman Cox, the White House has already put out a statement saying that what the administration was doing was simply what Presidents Reagan and Bush had already done before them.

COX: Well, there's no question that there are multiple issues involved here, and the issue to which the White House refers is the granting of waivers for the sale of satellites. But much more is at stake.

After the Chinese missile with satellite atop it crashed in 1996, reportedly, Loral went much further in violation of the administration's own guidelines and transferred technology, perhaps in a knowing way, which resulted in the initiation of criminal investigation by the Clinton Justice Department. So I expect that the Clinton administration, because the initiative that they've taken here, will be a cooperative partner in this investigation.

WOODRUFF: How much time do you think this investigation will take? Can you -- are you able to put a time limit on it at this point?

COX: It's very easy to put a time limit on it. The creation of a select committee is co-extensive with the Congress that creates it. This Congress will be over in January, so too will this committee. The whole thing will be up and down in less than a year.

WOODRUFF: What about the evidence that you're going to need in order to prove that wrongdoing took place. Are you going to have the resources, the investigators and so forth to ferret out any evidence out there?

COX: I think we'll need a modest compliment of staff in order to do this job, but we're not out to prove wrongdoing. What we're out to do, rather, is simply find out: first, whether these newspaper stories are accurate; and second, if they are, because they are on their face so grave, how could this happen?

WOODRUFF: All right, Representative Christopher Cox, thank you very much for being with us.

COX: Happy to join you.

In Other News

Thursday, May 21, 1998

Chinese Aerospace Official Denies Giving To Dems
Senate Signals Disapproval Of Liability Cap For Tobacco Industry
Oregon Primary Results
Clinton Seals U.S. Approval Of NATO Expansion
Prominent Donor Testifies Before Lewinsky Grand Jury

The 'Inside Politics' Interview: Rep. Chris Cox

Moneyline Interview: Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz

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