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Bush May Lift Ban on Selling Satellites to China

December 13, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration is considering lifting a ban on satellite exports to China, continuing to chip away at sanctions imposed on Beijing after its violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

President Bush ″did not intend to disrupt normal civilian commercial relations″ when he barred military exports to China last spring, and officials are reviewing the sanctions with that in mind, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Tuesday.

The news from the White House brought condemnation from Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., chairman of House Foreign Policy subcommittee on international economic policy and trade. He said the idea of lifting the sanction on satellites ″makes no sense whatsoever.″

″In China, where the government has only tightened the screws, the Bush administration seems to see no limit on what they ought to try to do to help the Chinese government,″ Gejdenson said.

Last weekend, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger went to Beijing to explore the possibility of resuming relations with China. The trip, an exception to the president’s ban on high-level contacts with China, also drew sharp criticism from congressional Democrats.

Meanwhile, a Bush administration official told The Associated Press that a third administration official, White House personnel director Chase Untermeyer, joined the administration’s mission to China last weekend.

The official did not say why Untermeyer went. The Washington Post reported today he visited two Chinese friends of Bush, a former ambassador to China, for their assessments of the situation there.

The Hughes Aircraft-manufactured communications satellites fall in the category of items on the government’s sensitive munitions list that were automatically included in the suspension, U.S. officials said.

″No decision has been made ... but it is possible,″ those satellites will be freed for delivery, Fitzwater said.

Two of them are under Hughes contract to a joint Australian-Chinese venture and the third are for a British-Chinese consortium in Hong Kong, he said. China will launch the satellites for the Australian firm, AUSSAT, and the Hong Kong consortium, AsiaSat.

Australia has been pushing for a waiver and has received indications the administration will make a decision in its favor by the end of the year, said Australian Embassy political counselor Roger Uren.

″We have made it clear this is important to us. We have a sense the Americans understand,″ he said Tuesday. ″We basically get a positive sense.″

One of Australia’s satellites is to be launched in April and the others in 1991 and 1992, while the British-Chinese one is to go up on a Chinese launch vehicle in April.

Licenses for export had been granted for all three satellites before the sanctions were imposed. The State Department ″advised Hughes it would consider a request for an exemption from the suspension,″ but there has been no decision, said Hughes spokesman Don O’Neal.

Bush imposed sanctions on June 5 in the wake of Beijing’s attack that killed hundreds of Tiananmen Square protesters.

The order included a ban on export of weapons and military equipment, satellites and nuclear supplies, as well as suspension of any loans to China from the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank.

Since then, the administration has allowed export of five Boeing jetliners, whose guidance system was on the U.S. munitions control list of sensitive technology. Boeing spokesman Randy Harrison said the government ultimately agreed that the planes’ navigation device was for civilian use and could not be removed for military use without being obvious.

The administration also has permitted Chinese engineers to resume work in the United States on a $500 million program to upgrade Chinese F-8 fighter planes with sophisticated electronics equipment. The White House said no planes were to be delivered, in accordance with the ban on military exports.

The administration is looking for signs of change in Chinese repressive policies before normalizing relations, he said.

There has been no change in the deferral of $957 million in World Bank loans and $336 million in Asian development Bank loans, said Fitzwater.

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