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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, June 23, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


Q: Jan Lodal last week in Hill testimony said there were three unmonitored U.S. satellite launches by China, and I was wondering if you could explain whether there were any safeguards in shipping those satellites over that would have prevented the Chinese from gaining access to embedded technologies with them.

A: I think that what Jan Lodal stressed in this testimony was that there was a period of uncertainty after the export rules were changed, and during that period three purely commercial communications satellites were launched without monitors. It turns out that that was, in fact, under the rules of the time, allowed. We do not believe, and Lodal so testified, that any significant technology was transferred to the Chinese as a result of these three launches.

Since that time, the last launch was in 1996, we have changed the monitoring procedures so that all satellite launches are monitored whether they involve purely commercial satellites or not.

Q: Do they have embedded military technologies?

A: All I can tell you is that we do not believe that anything that happened because of these launches did anything to improve China's missile or satellite capability.

Q: But if they weren't being monitored, how can you tell?

A: Because we know what was in the satellites, and that's one of the reasons they weren't monitored, because they were purely communication satellites. Now the Chinese have launched their own communication satellites. They know what this technology is. We know what is shipped over there, and we know how it compares with what they know. So we're in a position, in a situation like this, to go back and look at what's been shipped and make determinations as to whether it was possible to advance their knowledge or not. And what Mr. Lodal testified last week, and when he first made this announcement that apparently went undetected by the public, although he said it in public hearing, what he said was that he's not... We do not believe that these launches contributed in any way to advancing China's technology.

Q: But if it's a reason for monitoring all satellites, all satellite exports, it's because they have embedded in them sensitive military technology...

A: They do not all have embedded in them sensitive military technology. That's the point I made. China has been launching its own communication satellites for some time. Communication satellites come in many flavors, and they come with many different technological packages. Some are much more advanced than others. A simple communications satellite is something that many countries have the ability to build and to put into space.

All I can tell you is that after reviewing these three launches, that we determined that they did not in any way contribute to advancing China's technological base.

Why were they launched without monitors? The reason was that under the regulations at that time, a purely commercial communications satellite that did not contain any sensitive technology whatsoever, was allowed to be launched with a Commerce Department license and did not require any monitoring.

In 1996 the government decided to require monitors for all satellite launches just to be extra careful, but it was -- these satellites were licensed and launched with the understanding that they had no particular special technology in them.

Press: Thank you.

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