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News Briefs I

Clinton May Penalize China For Selling Nuclear Components

The Baltimore Sun
WASHINGTON

A divided Clinton administration is considering imposing stiff penalties on China for selling nuclear technology or missile parts to Pakistan and Iran, a senior official said Thursday.

Some U.S. officials argue that China's recent sales have flouted both international treaties and U.S. law. If they're right, the administration could eventually slap an array of costly penalties on China, including a halt in the sharing of sophisticated U.S. technology.

In anticipation of some kind of decision, the administration has already advised the Export Import Bank to put billions of dollars worth of loans for U.S.-China trade on hold.

But the administration's foreign policy agencies disagree on whether the evidence is strong enough to justify punishing the Chinese, according to John Holum, administrator of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Answering questions from reporters, Holum Thursday provided the most complete official picture to date of how the administration is grappling with the allegations of Chinese weapons violations.

His remarks coincided with U.S.-Chinese tensions on two other fronts: the start Friday of missile tests near the Taiwan Strait that have rattled the Taiwanese and alarmed international shippers, and harsh U.S. criticism this week of Chinese repression. The State Department's human rights report for 1995 even suggested that the administration had erred in thinking that trade could lead to improved human rights.

Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, Thursday sharply criticized China's provocative displays of military force near Taiwan, which it still regards as part of China despite their separation since 1949.

"These missile exercises - and indeed we have some reason to believe they have occurred - we consider both provocative and reckless," McCurry told reporters. China is widely seen as trying to intimidate the Taiwanese people in advance of presidential elections later this month, with the aim of tempering the drive for independence and world recognition of Taiwan.

Panel OKs Affirmative Action Bill

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Opening an affirmative action debate that promises to resonate in the presidential campaign, a House committee endorsed Republican legislation Thursday that would prohibit race- or gender-based preferences in all federal actions, from hiring to granting federal aid or contracts.

The House bill marked the first time since Republicans regained control of Congress that the GOP has moved to revamp programs intended to help women and minorities overcome the effects of discrimination.

Although the bill is expected to face stiff opposition on the floor of both the House and the Senate, it has wide and powerful backing - including 93 House co-sponsors. House leaders have vowed to bring it to the floor for a vote by this summer.

The primary sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kansas, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. There currently is no schedule for Senate action on the bill.

Angry House Democrats on Thursday denounced the measure, saying it would gut affirmative action programs and reverse gains made by women and minorities in the past two decades. They charged that language in the measure outlawing any "numerical goal, timetable or numerical objective" would mean killing even programs that encourage but do not require the hiring of women and minorities - programs that traditionally have enjoyed bipartisan support.

"This is a substantial departure from the law as it exists today," said Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C. "It goes well, well, well beyond the law."

But backers of the bill contend that any numerical goal or objective set and pursued by the government eventually become hard and fast quotas.