Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told Congress Thursday that the United States is concerned about Chinese assistance to Libya’s long-range missile program and has told Beijing not to support it.
“Libya possesses 300-kilometer-range Scud missiles and is actively pursuing acquisition and development of even longer-range systems,” Mrs. Albright said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
“The U.S. views Libya’s efforts … as a serious threat to the region and our nonproliferation interests, and we have engaged in a number of ways in extensive efforts to impede the proliferation of missile equipment and technology to Libya.”
The secretary commented during questioning by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, about a report in Thursday’s editions of The Washington Times. The report quoted U.S. intelligence officials as saying China is actively helping Libya develop long-range missiles and provided the most recent missile technology transfer last month.
Asked about the report, Mrs. Albright said: “We take all these reports seriously, and we have raised our concerns with the Chinese, and we are concerned about this.”
She declined to comment further, citing a policy of not talking publicly about “intelligence matters.”
Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Yuanyuan said, “I don’t really want to make any comment on U.S. intelligence, given what the CIA has just said about trying to locate a target in Yugoslavia.”
He was referring to the CIA action last weekend to fire one employee and reprimand others for their role in providing incorrect targeting data to NATO that led to the errant bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade last year.
As for cooperation with Libya, he said that “our two countries have diplomatic relations” and “also have cooperative programs.” However, Mr. Zhang said he is “not aware of the cooperation that China is alleged to have with Libya” that was reported in The Times.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Libya’s arsenal of short-range Scud missiles is “aging” and the Tripoli government has “made no secret of the fact that they would like to build longer-range missiles” capable of hitting targets 620 miles away from the North African country.
“They do not have the indigenous technical capability, so they have been trying to work with other countries in the world in order to gain that capability,” he said, including nations in Asia.
Asked whether China were providing missile technology to Libya and whether it would violate the 29-nation Missile Technology Control Regime, Mr. Bacon said China is not part of the export control regime but has promised not to transport entire missile systems.
The spokesman said he was “not commenting on specific intelligence reports.”
State Department spokesman James Rubin said later that the U.S. government notified the Chinese government about reports of the cooperation with the Libyan missile program.
“We have engaged them about the issue of missile technology and equipment,” he said.
Mr. Rubin said U.S. worries about the Chinese missile program are “long-standing” and has informed Chinese leaders about the role of state-run companies in the trade and “will continue to do so.”
“We will continue to work with China to bring its policies better in line with international norms,” Mr. Rubin said.
A classified U.S. intelligence report from National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden was sent to senior U.S. officials March 2, outlining Chinese technology transfer to Libya, intelligence officials familiar with the report said.
Other intelligence reports circulated in December stated that China is providing Libya with a hypersonic wind tunnel that U.S. officials said will be used for developing long-range missiles.
The reports identified the state-run China Precision Machinery Import-Export Co. as working with the Libyan Al-Fatah missile program.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen highlighted Libya’s missile program in a little-noticed speech in Munich Feb. 5. He stated that the Libyans are “trying to buy long-range missiles.”
Reports of the Chinese-Libyan cooperation followed the announcement in Beijing on Tuesday that China will resume talks with the United States on halting the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and missiles.
The Libyan missile effort also was highlighted Wednesday in Switzerland. Swiss authorities arrested a Taiwanese businessman who was caught trying to smuggle missile components to Libya.
During the Senate subcommittee hearing, Mr. Bennett called Russia’s recent sale of an advanced cruise-missile destroyer to China a “significant threat” to the United States because the missiles it carries can kill U.S. ships and be equipped with nuclear warheads.