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US Downplays Reports of Bugged Chinese Aircraft - 2002-01-20

Top Bush administration officials are downplaying reports that listening devices were found in an American jet built for use by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. They say no such concerns have been raised by the Chinese.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Chinese have never mentioned a bugged plane in conversations with him or any other senior US official. "I am not aware of any contacts between us and the Chinese government concerning this so-called matter that we read about in the newspapers yesterday," Mr. Powell remarked.

During an interview with the Fox News Sunday television program, Mr. Powell did not directly address the accuracy of the reports, which appeared Saturday in Washington and London newspapers. But he said he did not expect they would raise a dark cloud over President Bush's planned trip to China next month. "We have been in touch with the Chinese government," he said. "They were delighted that we notified them that President Bush would be available next month to travel to China and they gave us an instantaneous response: "Welcome ... come on ahead." So we are looking forward to that trip and I do not expect anything to derail that trip."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was also asked about the reports during an appearance on NBC television's Meet the Press. His response was quick and blunt: "I have no knowledge of that subject at all."

London's Financial Times reported Saturday that Chinese intelligence officers discovered more than 20 sophisticated listening devices hidden in the Boeing 767. The Washington Post said Chinese officials believe the bugs were hidden by American intelligence agencies.