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|June 24, 1998||
US probing Hughes's missile connection with China
The United States justice department is investigating the release of a Hughes Electronics study on a Chinese rocket launch failure to China in 1995, Clinton administration officials said.
The department is interested in how Hughes got government approval to release the study, and whether that corporation and another satellite-maker gave China missile technology after a second launch failure a year later.
Testifying before a joint house hearing on Tuesday, Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration William Reinsch said China received a report prepared by the American corporation after the failure of a Chinese rocket that was to carry a Hughes-built commercial satellite into space.
Reinsch said the Hughes report did not contain any information that would help China improve its ballistic missiles. Rather, it focused on the "mating'' of the Hughes satellite to the Chinese Long March rocket, and whether that linkage played any role in the launch failure.
Republican Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said the public disclosure of this 1995 decision by the commerce department may undercut the justice department's criminal probe of the 1996 incident, which has become the focus of intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill.
The problem, Gilman said, is because Hughes was allowed to do a rocket accident study in 1995, it may now be difficult for the justice department to prosecute it for providing China information on another rocket accident in 1996.
In addition, Gilman continued, he was concerned that the commerce department allowed Hughes's report to be released to the Chinese without getting it reviewed by the Pentagon or state department.
"You quietly authorised a US company to share information regarding a Chinese launch failure in 1995 without sharing that decision with any other agency,'' Gilman accused.
"This was a judgement, we made it on our own,'' was Reinsch's reply.
The US government licence that allowed Hughes to ship its Apstar II communications satellite to China for launch had been reviewed and approved by the Pentagon and state department, Reinsch said.
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