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Espionage

More Chinese fireworks

By Jaime A. FlorCruz/Beijing and Mark Thompson/Washington

March 8, 1999
Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EST (1600 GMT)

TIME magazine

The charges are alarming: by way of an unnamed Chinese-American scientist working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in the mid-1980s, China stole sophisticated nuclear weapons know-how to replicate America's W-88 warhead, a miracle of miniaturized firepower. Last week the New York Times, elaborating on a January story in the Wall Street Journal, reported the security breach was being soft-pedaled by an Administration intent on warming to China. "We know the Chinese, through espionage, got information about the W-88 from Los Alamos," a White House official told TIME. "But we still don't know--although we are trying to figure out--just how much of an intelligence bonanza this was."

The political blow-back of such news could cripple this year's plans for 12 high-level exchange visits between the Pentagon and the People's Liberation Army, including a proposed visit to China by the Marine commandant. Critics point out that China could well use Marine expertise, say, in taking the beaches of Taiwan.

In Beijing, U.S. watchers believe the spy charges augur more humiliations from the anti-China lobby. They await the source of much of the current news, the as yet classified report on Chinese espionage assembled last year by a panel headed by Representative Christopher Cox. When is the release expected? Right before the U.S. visit later this month of China's Premier.

--By Jaime A. FlorCruz/Beijing and Mark Thompson/Washington

MORE TIME STORIES:

Cover Date: March 15, 1999

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