IN THE latest of a series of incidents involving China's thirst for banned technology from the United States, Digital Creations Corporation has admitted to the Commerce Department that it shipped more than US$443,000 (HK$3.4 million) in computer equipment to China between 1989 and 1993 without obtaining an export licence. Under a plea agreement, the firm's owner Charles Muniz pleaded guilty in a New Jersey court to one count - the selling of a powerful Vax 4400 computer to China at a price of $146,000. He admitted knowing he should have first obtained an export licence for the transfer. John Despres, assistant Commerce Secretary for export enforcement, told the court the department controlled such exports for reasons of national security and non-proliferation. 'This guilty plea shows federal authorities are vigorously investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of US export control laws,' Mr Despres said. The Vax computer was the kind of powerful processor which the US feared could be used by China for military or other purposes, said a Commerce Department spokesman. Some countries, such as Iraq and Libya, are barred from buying all but the most basic US technology. China is treated on a case-by-case basis. Beijing has repeatedly urged Washington to relax its controls on the export of some technology. The COCOM regulations, under which Western powers refrained from selling such equipment to Warsaw Pact and other Communist regimes, expired this year. But the US retains its own tough set of export laws. Mr Muniz's company faces a fine of up to US$1 million for the violation.