The Clinton Administration notified Congress today that it had approved the export of technology to China to permit the launching of a communications satellite aboard a Chinese rocket next month.
President Clinton said in a letter to Congress that the transfer would not harm national security or significantly improve China’s military capability in space. The President was required under a 1998 law to certify that all such technology exports are in the national interest.
The certification was the first such notice to Congress under the law, which was passed in the aftermath of a Congressional uproar last year over the transfer of sensitive missile technology to China.
Mr. Clinton’s notification also follows by less than a week the release of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which concluded that lax monitoring of the launching of American-made satellites aboard Chinese rockets had enhanced the accuracy of China’s ballistic missile arsenal.
And the action comes three days after the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was inadvertently bombed in a NATO raid, touching off angry street protests in Beijing.
The President’s action will affect the June 7 launching of a Motorola Iridium satellite, which is to fly into low orbit to provide paging and cellular telephone service. Mr. Clinton said that he had approved the export of satellite fuel and explosive bolts, which eject the satellite from its launch vehicle.
Today’s action was the final approval needed for the launch, which was first authorized in July 1993. A license for the export of the satellite itself was granted in November.
”The timing of this certification is not connected in any way to the tragic accident of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy,” said David Leavy, a spokesman for the National Security Council. ”Approval was recommended by the Departments of Commerce, State and Defense and is consistent with our policy of supporting the launch of U.S. communications satellites by China subject to strong safeguards being in place.”
A staff member of the intelligence panel said it was unlikely to contest the approval of the technology. But he said questions might be raised over whether the explosive bolts might someday be used to help eject nuclear warheads from a missile.