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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, December 10, 1998 - 1:50 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA


Q: I'm sorry if you've addressed this already, but can you give us any more information about this report on, the Pentagon report of the Hughes Aircraft, or Hughes aid to the Chinese missile program? There was a report in the New York Times on...

A: It's a secret report. I can't talk about it in much detail. It was requested by Congress. They asked us to analyze the impact of advice or assistance or information that Hughes may have given to the Chinese, and we performed that analysis and sent it to the Senate Government Affairs Committee which requested it in the first place.

Q: Can you go so far as to say whether or not the report made a finding that national security interests were in any way compromised by the transfer?

A: The report concluded that some of the information provided by Hughes could have allowed the Chinese to increase the reliability of their rocket launches. It also concluded that this was not likely, not likely to have altered the strategic balance between the U.S. and China.

The report also concluded that the type of information sent to China or given to China in the, during a review of a launch failure, a sort of post-failure review, that that information should have been given under license from the State Department, under the International Trafficking in Arms regulations.

Q: Do I understand this that Hughes Corporation is permitted to launch their satellites on Chinese rockets, but not permitted to help make sure the satellites actually get into space or that the launch is successful?

A: That's probably an overly simplistic description of the situation. When a company is licensed to have a... to launch an American satellite on a Chinese rocket, there are a series of safeguards that are supposed to occur to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology. This whole issue came up because of allegations that in some cases these safeguards were not followed. The safeguards have a number of elements to them. One element involved monitors, another element involves proper licensing, and these have to be followed in every case. In some cases they were not, and this was a report that dealt with one of those cases, according to our, the Defense Department's, conclusions.

Now I understand the State Department has also been asked to do a report on this particular launch, the so-called APSTAR II launch. My understanding is their report is not out yet, but will probably be out relatively soon, although you'll have to talk to the State Department about that.

Q: Is this overly simplistic, or is the problem here that, the problem apparently was not in the Hughes satellite, but that Hughes apparently, in discussing the situation with the Chinese, ended up giving them information which would improve their, the Chinese, rocket? Is that...

A: That's what the report found, yes.

Q: Did it also find that that information also could have improved launches of Chinese missiles as opposed to rockets?

A: This report dealt with the APSTAR II failure which was being launched by I think a LONG MARCH II rocket, or attempted to be launched by a LONG MARCH II rocket. To a certain extent, all technological information is transferable from one project to another, but this just looked at the project at hand.

Q: When this post-failure discussion between Hughes and the Chinese was happening, was a Defense Department person present, or was that part of the problem? That they didn't conduct those conversations...

A: No, that was part of the problem. There was no... That's what the reviewers found, there was no Defense Department person present at the time.

Q: So not only did they share information that they shouldn't have, they followed the wrong procedures by not having a Defense Department person there when they had any discussion.

A: I think that different people in the government would disagree over that characterization of what procedures were correct and what procedures weren't correct. It's the Defense Department's view that this should have been handled under a State Department licensing procedure which would have involved monitors, Defense Department monitors, on the scene during meetings between the Chinese and the corporate officials, and would have involved monitors on the scene in China during certain events.

Q: Does the Pentagon report recommend a new safeguard? Or for that matter, any kind of tightening up in enforcement by the Pentagon?

A: No, it does not make specific recommendations. This looked at an historical event that took place in 1995 and tried to reconstruct what happened during that event.

The issue here wasn't whether the safeguards were adequate, it's whether the safeguards were properly followed. That was the issue, one of the issues in the report.


Press: Thank you very much.


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