Full account is due on missiles deal

June 25, 1998

The Detroit Free Press said in an editorial Tuesday: OF ALL the questions about campaign finance and Clinton administration policy, the one area that has to be taken most seriously is the issue of technology transfer to China. Even the hint of an improper transfer is cause for concern.

While there have been waivers before and seemingly defensible reasons for waivers now on such dealings with the Chinese, the administration should be pressed hard about whether it has followed all necessary safeguards. With the Commerce Department, rather than security or defense agencies, playing the leading role in such decisions, the danger that commercial judgments will outweigh security concerns has to be taken seriously. Against the backdrop of contributions that may have originated with Chinese interests, the question is doubly important.

Blurring the lines

The line is often blurred between an inappropriate transfer and a legitimate one. The satellite projects that have been pursued jointly by American firms and the Chinese require a high degree of cooperation. In granting the waivers, the Clinton administration has been following a course similar to that followed in the Bush administration.

Nonetheless, the concerns about potential leakage of data the Chinese can use to improve the accuracy of military-purpose missiles are serious. Congress ought to ask questions and demand answers, as the House voted to do in appointing a select committee to consider the issue. The inquiry needs to be honest and not simply an attempt to grab partisan advantage. But there are questions that clearly need to be answered so that we can be reasonably assured that the transfers permitted were within appropriate bounds.

Pub Date: 6/25/98

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