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Clinton Urged to Ask Premier About China Fundraising Link

By Alan C. Miller

Critics of President Clinton’s handling of China urged him Monday to confront Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji about new evidence that the chief of China’s military intelligence illicitly funneled money into the United States to support Clinton’s re-election in 1996.

Zhu arrives in Los Angeles Tuesday and will meet with Clinton in Washington on Thursday during an eight-day visit at a time of growing tensions between the United States and China.

In a letter to Clinton, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said the president should demand “complete and unconditional cooperation, both in the investigation into China’s interference with our elections, and in the investigation into China’s attempt to steal U.S. nuclear secrets.”

Republican presidential aspirant Steve Forbes also said that Clinton should insist that Zhu explain the new evidence.

“If he (Clinton) were a truly innocent party, he would bring it up with outrage and conviction and make it clear there will be a price to pay,” Forbes said in an interview. “The first step should be a suspension of U.S. armed forces cooperation with the Chinese military.”

Burton and Forbes were among those responding to a story in the Los Angeles Times disclosing that former Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung has told federal investigators that China’s military intelligence chief secretly directed funds from Beijing to help re-elect Clinton in 1996.

Chung said he met three times with Gen. Ji Shengde, who ordered $300,000 transferred into the Torrance, Calif., businessman’s bank account to subsidize donations intended for Clinton, according to sources familiar with Chung’s sealed statements to federal prosecutors.

An aide to Clinton declined Monday to say whether the president planned to ask Zhu about the matter.

“The president has always made clear his view that everyone should cooperate with investigations into these matters,” said White House spokesman Jim Kennedy.

The White House has said that Clinton was unaware of the source of Chung’s funds when Chung was making political contributions.

In Beijing, a government spokesman denied Monday that China provided clandestine donations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi called the new allegation a “random and wanton fallacy concocted by a few people with ulterior motives” and said this “misguided political attempt is doomed to failure.”

In the United States, news of Chung’s testimony prompted a flurry of reactions.

A government official familiar with China’s intelligence practices said that the new account “suggests that this is an effort at very high levels of their intelligence organization to penetrate the circles around the president.”

The official said the money was likely intended to ingratiate Chinese operatives with Chung and, in turn, to enhance Chung’s access to Clinton and the top echelons of the U.S. government. Chung, who donated more than $400,000 to Democratic campaigns and causes in 1994-96, visited the White House more than 50 times and introduced various Chinese associates to Clinton and other senior administration officials.

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the first to assert that there was a Chinese plan to channel money into the 1996 presidential campaign, said, “This clearly puts another major piece in the puzzle. It is right along the lines of the plan that we were talking about early on.”

Burton said that his committee, which also probed the 1996 fund raising, intends to subpoena Chung to testify. Chung has pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges and is on probation.