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Report of China Spying Sharpens Focus on Clinton

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WASHINGTON: This one's going to be hard to ignore. The White House and Congress will be presented Wednesday with a new intelligence report that concludes that yes, China did steal nuclear secrets from Los Alamos in the 1980s. But China's nuclear-weapons program also gathered sensitive information from nonsecret sources, including academic exchanges and inadvertent leaks of information by scientists. Congress is likely to turn the spotlight on the Clinton administration, which may have glossed over similar warnings in 1997 to avoid souring U.S.-China relations, and did nothing when government investigators found security at national laboratories troublingly porous.

Sino-American relations are again at a critical point in 1999, but TIME correspondent William Dowell says the Chinese shouldn't get the blame for this snafu. "Every country in the world engages in spying, and the U.S. is certainly no more lax than the Chinese in that department. If we were to make a major issue of it with them, they'd certainly be able to answer in kind." More likely is that Congress will use the latest report in the way they're ready to use the war in Kosovo: as a way to paint Clinton as dangerously na´ve -- if not downright corrupt -- in matters of national security. And as the evidence mounts, it looks as if Republicans have a pretty strong case.