Britain is anxious to ensure that advance parties of mainland troops will not bring their guns to the territory before the handover. Any request for an armed reconnaissance unit could be seen as an attempt to undermine British sovereignty and will be opposed by the British in negotiations. China has made a request to the British for soldiers to be allowed into Hong Kong before the handover, to ease the switch of garrisons. The British, meanwhile, have filed a number of questions in the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) to find out the exact nature of the advance parties. It is understood the question of troops bringing in their guns will be addressed. British JLG spokesman Bill Dickson said negotiations between the two sides were confidential, and would not confirm whether People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops bringing their weapons had been made an issue. 'Last week, we put a series of questions to the Chinese side about the PLA deployment plan and other relevant issues. At the next round we will get down to the nitty-gritty such as this,' he said. 'Of course, there is no question that Britain will be responsible for the defence of Hong Kong up to the stroke of midnight on July 1, 1997.' Though rifles or side-arms are a normal part of a PLA soldier's kit, British sources said bringing guns into Hong Kong before July 1 would be opposed. Legislators said yesterday they saw no need for PLA advance parties to be armed. James To Kun-sun, security spokesman for the Democratic Party, said he could see only two reasons for the PLA advance party - to practise the handover ceremony and to check the layout of their new buildings, neither of which required weapons. Though he could see it might be practical for the PLA to bring in equipment before the handover, he said good relations between the British and Chinese forces were more important. 'If the British Government insists on no weapons from the sovereignty point of view, I would urge the Chinese not to push too much,' Mr To said. 'People do not want the two sovereign armies to be at any kind of loggerheads.' The Liberal Party's Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said it was reasonable to have an advance party to handle technical matters, but they would not need guns. 'That would be an army,' she said. Possession of guns is strictly limited under Hong Kong law.