Intelligence reports indicate that for the past two years, China's military has used U.S.-made satellites, sold solely for civilian uses, to send messages to army posts across the vast nation, the New York Times reported today.
The U.S. has barred American companies from selling any military equipment to the Chinese military since the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square. The Clinton administration has publicly said that satellites sold to Chinese-linked companies were being used only for civilian purposes.
Yet the classified reports indicate that China's army has gained advantage from the decisions by both the Clinton administration, and previously the Bush administration, to encourage the sale of satellite technology.
The intelligence reports were contained in a document put together last year by Pentagon officials and then distributed to hundreds of officials at the White House and State Department, the report said.
On Friday, the Chinese ambassador suggested that the United States needs China as an ally in a region troubled by fresh nuclear threats and financial crises.
Just two weeks before President Clinton is to visit China, Ambassador Li Zhaoxing also offered assurances that his nation has only peaceful and prosperous ambitions.
"China is pursuing a peaceful foreign policy," Li said at a news conference a day after Clinton defended his upcoming trip. "China presents no threat to any country."
Clinton's five-city journey, from June 25 to July 3, will be the first visit to China by an American president since the Tiananmen crackdown. Chinese dissidents say he should stay home to protest China's human rights policies. And Republicans in Congress are critical of his administration's decision to allow the sale of satellites to Chinese-linked firms, saying the exports may have damaged U.S. national security.
In his speech, Li dismissed as Cold War thinkers those congressional critics who complain that the Clinton administration is engaging a human rights violator and a potential military aggressor.
Coming just eight months after Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Washington, Clinton's trip to China is aimed at maintaining momentum in building on the "constructive strategic partnership" the two leaders agreed to last October.
Clinton said Thursday that his trip is "the right thing to do for our country" and promised to press Jiang on human rights, environmental problems, weapons proliferation, crime and drug trafficking and open trade.