Senators urge Bush to block satellites to mainland China


WASHINGTON, Reuters

Four influential Republican senators have urged President George W. Bush to keep blocking communications satellite exports to mainland China, which are prohibited by sanctions imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

In a letter Bush earlier this month, the senators said he would soon be asked to grant waivers for several proposed communications satellite exports to mainland China, but these should be denied for nonproliferation and human rights reasons.

Signatories to the letter, obtained by Reuters, were Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee; John Kyl of Arizona and Fred Thompson of Tennessee, both Senate Intelligence Committees members.

The congressional push to prevent satellite exports comes as the six-month-old Bush administration tries to stabilize ties with Beijing and prepare the ground for the first summit between Bush and mainland Chinese President Jiang Zemin next October. As part of the effort, Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to visit Beijing for talks later this month.

During former President Bill Clinton’s administration, the Republican-led U.S. Congress frequently expressed concern that by exporting satellites, U.S. firms provided expertise used by mainland China to enhance its ballistic missile and space programs. Many lawmakers argued Clinton’s policies also facilitated transfers of military-related technology to mainland China.

The Bush administration has expressed interest in relaxing and retooling sanctions in general because many are considered ineffective, but it is not yet known what position it will take on the satellite exports. A spokesman said the State Department had not yet concluded a review of satellite applications.