WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration sees nothing to indicate that the Chinese have any desire to control the Panama Canal, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday in response to congressional concern about a Hong Kong-based company's management of canal ports.

``It's an issue within the Panamanian government's control and one that we look at and do not consider to be a security issue or a security threat to the United States at all,'' Adm. Craig Quigley said at a Pentagon news conference.

Panamanian officials also have dismissed fears that the 20-year arrangement with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. will give China control over the waterway after the United States gives up the canal at the end of the year.

The company will manage access to ports at both the Pacific and Atlantic entrances to the canal.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has sent a letter to President Clinton raising concern about the matter and to the Senate Armed Services Committee calling for hearings, now planned next month.

``We have nothing to indicate that the Chinese have the slightest desire to somehow control the Panama Canal,'' Quigley said. ``And we don't consider this a security issue at all. Is it a business issue.''

Quigley said it is an issue within the Panamanian government and involves a deal with ``a well-established businessman.''