A senior Chinese diplomat yesterday denied reports that his country stole nuclear weapons technology from a U.S. laboratory, blaming a "Cold War mentality" in Washington for the scandal that has prompted FBI and Energy Department investigations. "They are sorry there is no more Soviet Union, and they don't know how to act," said He Yafei, a minister-counsel at the Chinese Embassy, referring to those accusing China of espionage at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1980s to help modernize Chinese nuclear warheads.
"The Sino-U.S. relationship has become the victim of party politics in the United States."
But the State Department and the Pentagon quickly dismissed the denial.
"We believe that there was espionage, that secrets were transferred and this was hurtful to us," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said. "We think it is very standard for countries to deny spying when it occurs."
The State Department said the United States remains "deeply concerned about reports of China's attempts to illegally acquire sensitive U.S. technology."
That concern is "shared widely by both branches, the executive and legislative branches of government, by both political parties," said James P. Foley, the deputy spokesman.
"There's no division there. The Chinese should not read our concern over espionage as a partisan matter or a matter that's manufactured by opponents of U.S.-China relations," he said. "This relationship is extremely important."
In a bid to counter daily news reports and political charges of Chinese theft of sensitive military technology, Mr. He held a news conference here at which he reiterated Beijing's view that the spying claims are false.
"The reports about a theft of U.S. military technology are completely unfounded and irresponsible," Mr. He said in China's first in-depth response to the reports.
"China's efforts to develop nuclear weapons are entirely its own, based on its own efforts.
"Chinese scientists are as intelligent and vigilant as American scientists - if not more clever. . . .
"During the Ming Dynasty [from 1368-1644] a scientist tried to launch a missile and lost his life."
Mr. He pointed to other reports in recent years that military technology had been leaked and said it was later proved these were normal, academic exchanges.
"I'm not going to name any names, but there are some people in the United States who don't want to see any progress in U.S.-China relations," Mr. He said. …