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Bush Approves Delivery of 4 Boeing Jetliners to China

Times Staff Writer

President Bush, granting an exemption to his month-old sanctions against China, has decided to allow Boeing Corp. to deliver four passenger jets to Beijing, the State Department said Friday.

The four 757 jetliners, worth an estimated $196 million, had been scheduled for delivery when Bush, reacting to the Chinese army’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters, announced a ban on military exports to Beijing on June 5.

The planes, bought for civilian use by China’s civil aviation authority, fell under the ban because their navigation systems also could be used aboard military aircraft.

But after Boeing appealed to the Administration, Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III decided last week to grant an exemption, officials said.

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State Department spokesman Dennis Harter said that the decision to allow export of the jetliners did not constitute a softening of the original sanctions.

“This decision is in keeping with the President’s intent not to disrupt nonmilitary commercial trade with the People’s Republic of China, and was based on the fact that these navigational systems are designed for inclusion on civilian products and are critical to the safe operation of commercial aircraft,” he said.

“To have denied these exports would have jeopardized the safety of civilian air passengers,” he added.

He said that the decision should be viewed merely as a refinement of the existing sanctions, which were not intended to block the export of civilian jets.

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“The secretary was involved in the decision and the President certainly reviewed it,” Harter said. “They were looking very carefully at it in terms of the President’s policy . . . and they concluded that it was consistent with the policy of suspending only military sales.”

He said he knows of no plans to revise or ease the sanctions.

As part of the exemption, Harter said, the producer of the navigational systems, Honeywell Corp., also was granted a license to repair and replace any of the components that it has already sold to China for civilian use. Because the system may also be suitable for military use, Honeywell will be required to take back any components that it replaces, he said.

Exemption Welcomed

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Boeing welcomed the exemption. “The State Department has reviewed the suspensions and decided that these items are not part of the original intent of the presidential trade sanctions,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman Randy Harrison told the Associated Press in Seattle.

Harrison said that China already operates five 757-200s among the 61 Boeing airplanes, with a total value of $2.35 billion, that it has purchased since 1971.

Bush, on the day after the massacre of Chinese protesters in Beijing’s Tian An Men Square on June 3-4, halted what was then estimated as more than $600 million worth of pending sales from the U.S. government plus an undetermined amount of sales from private suppliers.

He described the sanctions as “a reasoned, careful action that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation in China.” But he added: “It is very important the Chinese leaders know it’s not going to be business as usual.”

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