Tags: China | Preparing | Nuclear | Test

China Preparing Nuclear Test

Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00 AM

Quoting U.S. intelligence officials the newspaper said spy satellites last week picked up vehicle activity at the Lop Nur nuclear weapons test site in the remote western province of Xinjiang.

Intelligence reports of the upcoming test coincide with the resumption Monday of U.S. reconnaissance flights near China, which could be used to detect intelligence related to the test, the officials said.

However, they did not know if the RC-135 Rivet Joint flight on Monday was looking for electronic signals in eastern China that may be related to the test, but RC-135s have collected nuclear testing information from the Chinese in the past.

China is believed to be working on a new small warhead based on the design of the U.S. W-88 nuclear warhead. U.S. intelligence experts say that China obtained secret design information on the W-88 through espionage in the United States.

Asked about the upcoming test, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would not comment directly.

"It's my judgment the Chinese will benefit immensely from what went on at Los Alamos and Livermore," Shelby said of Chinese espionage activities at U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories.

"In the years to come, you will see a modernization of their nuclear weapons and a lot of it will be based on our models, including the W-88," he said, noting that when the Chinese succeed in developing their nuclear arms it will be a "quantum leap" in their strategic power.

Test preparations at Lop Nur were first reported by The Washington Times on April 9, after U.S. intelligence agencies detected the first signs of an impending nuclear test in March.

Officials said the upcoming test, which could take place before the end of the month, might be a "subcritical" nuclear test -- a small explosion designed to simulate a nuclear blast.

Other officials suspect the Chinese will carry out a small nuclear test despite their pledge to have stopped all nuclear testing in 1996.

U.S. intelligence agencies suspect China is engaged in covert nuclear testing that relies on small, low-yield underground blasts. The suspicions are based on intelligence reports indicating Beijing´s agents purchased special containment equipment from Russia several years ago that masks the effects of underground nuclear tests.

The last Chinese nuclear-related test took place in 1999, shortly before a senior State Department official delivered an apology to Beijing for the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, during the NATO aerial bombing campaign.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has defended its use of aircraft to intercept U.S. surveillance flights near its coast and said they threaten its security.

The surveillance is "a grave threat to China's security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told reporters in Beijing.

Chinese jet fighters did not challenge the RC-135 flight Monday, but Sun said sending jets to monitor the planes is "necessary and very reasonable." He said the United States should "learn from the past" to avoid further incidents.

U.S. surveillance flights were halted after the April 1 collision between a U.S. EP-3E aircraft and a Chinese F-8 interceptor. The F-8 crashed and its pilot was killed after the collision. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island and the crew was held 12 days before being released.

China's Deputy Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Wednesday that returning the aircraft by allowing it to fly out of China would "further hurt the dignity and sentiments of the Chinese people" and cause "strong indignation and opposition from the Chinese people."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Quoting U.S. intelligence officials the newspaper said spy satellites last week picked up vehicle activity at the Lop Nur nuclear weapons test site in the remote western province of Xinjiang. Intelligence reports of the upcoming test coincide with the resumption Monday of...
China,Preparing,Nuclear,Test
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2001-00-14
Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00 AM
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