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Clinton May Certify That China Does Not Spread Nuclear Arms

By Jim Mann
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Amid intensive lobbying by the U.S. nuclear industry, President Clinton is on the verge of certifying that China does not help spread nuclear weapons to other nations, according to administration officials.

That formality would open the way for U.S. companies such as Westinghouse Electric Corp. to sell nuclear power equipment to China. Until now, such sales have been barred by a 1985 law requiring the president to first certify that China does not engage in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Administration officials, who asked not to be named, suggested that Clinton is likely to act within the next few weeks. Indeed, China's certification could be the centerpiece announcement at Clinton's meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Oct. 2829 in Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State Stanley O. Roth told Congress two weeks ago that while China has not yet met the standards for certification, "we hope that they will by the (time of the) summit."

U.S. and Chinese officials negotiating in Washington, New York City and Beijing have been hurriedly trying to wrap up final details.

Certification is not without its critics. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has complained that such action would stand as a "testament to the role financial interests play in the U.S. policy toward China."

The support that has built within the administration for certification reflects Clinton's overall approach for addressing the problem of China's proliferation of deadly arms. Officials said that he wants specifically to reward China's progress in changing practices that lead to the spread of nuclear weapons, even though the Chinese regime is still providing technology related to missile and chemical-warfare developments to countries such as Iran.

In June, the CIA reported to Congress that during the last half of 1996, China "was the most significant supplier (in the world) of weapons of mass destruction-related goods and technology to foreign countries."