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Tuesday June 1 12:07 AM ET

China Says U.S. Nuclear 'Secrets' On Internet

By Matt Pottinger

BEIJING (Reuters) - China sneered Monday at allegations it stole U.S. nuclear weapons secrets, saying warhead technology is readily available in libraries and on the Internet.

``Performance data on the seven types of nuclear warheads ... have long been openly published in the United States,'' cabinet spokesman Zhao Qizheng told reporters.

``They are no longer secrets, so there is nothing to steal,'' Zhao said in a statement he read to reporters before logging on to the Internet to demonstrate the availability of nuclear technology.

At a Web site registered to the Federation of American Scientists (http://www.fas.org), he showed graphics and data on the dimensions and yields of nuclear bombs included in the Cox report.

A report by a special congressional committee headed by Republican Christopher Cox said China stole secret information on U.S. nuclear technology, including seven types of warheads, in a spying campaign spanning 20 years.

``This is utterly absurd. This sensational conclusion does not hold water,'' Zhao said.

He insisted China has never stolen foreign technology to build its national defense and said U.S. assumptions that it could not have developed advanced nuclear weapons on its own were ``wildly arrogant.''

``Never did China in the past, nor does it at present, nor will it in the future base its development of sophisticated national defense technology related to national security and interests on the theft of technology from other countries.''

Zhao branded as racist the Cox Report's charge that China used not only professional intelligence agents but also scientists, students, businessmen and bureaucrats to obtain secrets.

``This is a great slander against the Chinese nation and is typical racial prejudice,'' he said.

China launched its first indigenous surface-to-surface missile and first atom bomb in 1964, 12 years before the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States when Washington was running an economic blockade of China, he said.

Zhao's denials were the most detailed attempt to date by Beijing to rebut the allegations of last week's 872-page Cox Report.

The report has compounded fractures in Sino-U.S. ties caused by NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7.

Zhao said the report's release was timed by ``anti-China forces'' in Washington to sabotage relations and deflect attention from the embassy bombing.

``It seems totally intentional that the Cox Report was published under current circumstances,'' he said.

``Their purpose is to divert public attention, fan anti-China feelings, defame China's image and try to hold back Sino-U.S relations so as to stop China's development,'' he said.

Chinese media have insisted the bombing was deliberate, while NATO said it was a mistake based on outdated maps.

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