Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Weapons Sting May Hurt Relations with China

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Weapons Sting May Hurt Relations with China

Article excerpt

The White House hopes the seizure of assault rifles apparently smuggled from China won't become another bump in the road to improving already poor U.S. relations with China.

President Bill Clinton's administration is asking China to consider it a question of crime, not politics. "I don't see why this needs to complicate U.S.-China relations at all," said Nicholas Burns, a State Department spokesman.

But Richard Solomon, assistant secretary of state for East Asia under President George Bush, said, "Whatever the facts, it is their ability to get this kind of issue under control that is a measure of how seriously the Chinese want to stabilize their relationship."

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., began circulating a letter among members of Congress urging Clinton to bar two Chinese defense companies implicated in the alleged smuggling - Norinco and Poly Technologies - from doing any business in the United States.

Thursday's Justice Department disclosure that seven people were arrested in San Francisco - and 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles seized - coincides with a raging dispute with China over its production of pirated American music and other so-called "intellectual property."

The pirating accusation already holds the potential to touch off a trade war. The administration has targeted Chinese textile and other manufacturers for doubled import duties. China has threatened to retaliate by mounting barriers to its own list of U.S. products and restricting American investment.

The smuggling case could raise tension further, especially because the president of one of the companies is the son-in-law of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.

In response to U.S. complaints during the Bush administration about Chinese missile sales to questionable regimes, China agreed to set up a special export-control group in its Foreign Ministry.

The Clinton administration waited until Treasury agents moved against the alleged smuggling ring to begin discussing the allegations with Chinese officials. …

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