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China-US Ties Survive Airplane Bugging Scandal - 2002-01-22

China's government says the recent spy scandal involving its presidential airplane will not hurt relations between Beijing and Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi says he did not see "any impact" on other matters caused by the alleged electronic eavesdropping on the presidential plane.

In China's first official comment since the story surfaced Saturday, Mr. Sun refuses to confirm or deny news reports that dozens of sophisticated listening devices were planted on the Boeing 767 bought for President Jiang Zemin to use. The jet was built in the United States and delivered to China in August.

He says China is a peace-loving country that does not threaten anyone, so no country needs to bug China. He did not comment further on the matter.

Relations between Washington and Beijing are getting special scrutiny right now, as President Bush gets ready to visit China next month. Experts and diplomats on both sides of the Pacific say relations between the two are much better now than last year, when the collision between U.S. and Chinese military planes sparked an angry diplomatic standoff.

Relations were already on the mend when terrorist attacks killed thousands of Americans in New York and Washington last September. Washington thanked Beijing for its prompt and firm political support, and intelligence aid. Both sides say the relationship is much stronger now.

Some analysts speculate that China's leadership wants to avoid squabbling with Washington right now because Beijing is coping with the economic strains that come with joining the World Trade Organization, and the political burdens of changing its senior leadership later this year.