CIA concern over weapons sales

AMERICA'S new CIA chief has told Congress that the agency is deeply concerned by China's ability to be an alternative supplier of weapons to countries that are unable to purchase arms from Western nations with strict export controls.

In his first testimony before lawmakers since being named CIA director by President Mr Bill Clinton, Mr James Woolsey said China was a ''major proliferation concern''.

He also warned that Beijing - which is buying missile technology from Russia and Ukraine - could in turn sell this advanced know-how to other countries.

The CIA chief's alarm bells about China came amid fresh reports, denied by Beijing, that China may have revived and expanded its germ weapons programme.

Questioned about the reports, Mr Woolsey said he would only discuss the matter with lawmakers in a classified session.

He did say, however, that the intelligence community had long thought China might have the capability to continue its germ weapons programme.


The fresh allegations of Chinese misbehaviour on weapons proliferation come as the Clinton administration prepares its policy towards Beijing ahead of the annual renewal of China's Most Favoured Nation trade benefits.

Mr Woolsey told lawmakers that Russia's growing dealings with China and Iran posed new proliferation worries for the United States.

China's missile, chemical and nuclear transfers to the Middle East, particularly Iran and Pakistan, were also worrying.

But Mr Woolsey and other CIA officials made clear at the hearing that China was no longer violating international arms control treaties and had ''modified its behaviour'' after Beijing's sale of missiles to Saudi Arabia some years ago came under sharp criticism.