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China won't confirm, deny reports of bugged plane
January 19, 2002 Posted: 11:08 AM EST (1608 GMT)
From Jaime FlorCruz
CNN Beijing Bureau
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese analysts and government officials said Saturday they could neither confirm nor deny reports in two Western newspapers that a Boeing jet, delivered to China for use as the presidential plane, was bugged.
The Washington Post and the Financial Times reported Friday that Chinese intelligence officers discovered more than 20 listening devices throughout a new Boeing 767 purchased by China in June 2000 to be President Jiang Zemin's official jet. The Post, quoting a Chinese source, said 27 devices were found everywhere from the presidential bathroom to the headboard of Jiang's bed.
So far, there has been no confirmation of the reports from the United States.
"We never discuss these types of allegations," said a White House spokesman on Saturday.
A CIA spokesman said only, "On these types of allegations, as a matter of policy we just don't comment."
The Times said Jiang was furious at the discovery.
Asked about the reports, government officials and analysts told CNN they had not heard about a bugged plane. They expressed surprise but said they also were not totally shocked.
One analyst said it is not uncommon for countries to spy on each other to preserve national interests, which prevail in any bilateral relationship.
A Boeing 767, like this one, was delivered to China in August, 2000.
A Chinese government official said even if the report were true, it would constitute a "small incident" that would not distract China from pursuing good relations with the United States. This official said China will remain focused on the "major issues" when U.S. President Bush visits Beijing next month.
The reports said the Boeing jet was flown to China in August 2000 and Chinese military communications experts found the devices weeks later. The devices were said to be highly sophisticated and satellite-operated.
Chinese aviation officials and military officers are accusing the United States of planting the bugs, the Post reported, quoting sources.
Between the plane's manufacture in Seattle, Washington, and its arrival in Beijing, the jet stopped in San Antonio, Texas, for refitting by "several aircraft maintenance firms," the Post reported. It was under surveillance by Chinese officials throughout the process, both newspapers said.
After the bugs were discovered, the reports said, 20 Chinese air force officers and two officials from the company that imported the jet were detained.
The Post said Western diplomats and executives first learned of the case in mid-October when Chinese officials they did business with failed to appear for meetings. Chinese friends and colleagues told them the officials had been arrested.
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