Information China may have gained about improving its commercial satellite-launch rockets likely would be useful in its long-range nuclear missiles, including those pointed at the United States, according to CIA information provided to Senate investigators.
Amid persistent questions about whether U.S. companies provided missile technology to China, a Senate panel released CIA materials Thursday underscoring similarities between Chinese satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.Staging mechanisms, guidance systems, re-entry vehicles and rocket motors all involve identical or similar technology, the CIA said in a rare public disclosure of intelligence that it supplies to congressional committees.
The Senate Governmental Affairs international security subcommittee released previously classified portions of a secret briefing the CIA gave Senate investigators on Chinese missile and space launch capability last week.
Weeks earlier, the CIA provided top officials with a classified assessment saying that 13 of China's ICBMs were targeted at U.S. cities.
Congressional Republicans are opening investigations into concerns that a satellite export approved by President Clinton this year for a company headed by a major Democratic donor may have aided China's missile programs.
Administration critics say the similarity between satellite launch vehicles and ICBMs increases the chances that Clinton's export decisions may have led to the disclosure of valuable military technology. The administration counter-attacked on multiple fronts.
"No controlled information relative to ballistic missiles or warhead delivery technology has been authorized to be made available to Chinese authorities," State Department spokesman James Rubin said. "The whole underlying suggestion that somehow we want to transfer technology to the Chinese is simply fatuous."
The president, in an interview with USA Today, said he "absolutely" would attend his summit meeting in China next month, despite Republican calls for him to postpone the trip until questions surrounding missile export issues were resolved. Canceling the trip would be a "big mistake," he said.
"Our future, the interests of the American people in continuing to build the right sort of partnership with China and fight for the things that we believe in overwhelm any considerations that would argue for not going," Clinton was quoted as saying.