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Wed, Jan 12, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Defense ministry denies consultant role for alleged spy


Military officials yesterday dismissed reports that US nuclear weapons scientist Lee Wen-ho (李文和) had once been a consultant at a military-run research facility, saying his stint two years ago had been confined to lecturing.

Lee, accused of copying US classified nuclear data, gave academic lectures about routine subjects unrelated to nuclear secrets, military spokesman Kung Fan-ding (孔繁定) told reporters.

Kung denied a Washington Post report last month that said the military hired the Taiwan-born Lee as a consultant at its Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, where the scientist spoke in March and December 1998.

The Post on Dec. 31 reported that US authorities, who are investigating whether Lee provided secrets to China, have expanded their probe to include Lee's ties with Taiwan.

Kung said the military's contact with Lee only involved inviting him to lecture about the mechanics of armor-piercing and bullet-proof materials.

The military spokesman said that Taiwan does not have nuclear weapons, and has no plans to build them.

Some analysts here have suggested that the issue of whether Lee's alleged leaks were connected to Taiwan could be politically motivated as part of an effort to divert attention from China's possible role in the affair.

Scholars such as Su Chin-chiang (蘇進強) from Nanhua University have also said the kind of information Lee had access to was of little use to Taiwan, which had once had its own nuclear development program.

Su told the Taipei Times last month that Taiwan "does not need to obtain nuclear secrets of the kind Lee is accused of stealing ... considering our current level of technology."

Lee is being held in New Mexico without bail for allegedly copying classified nuclear data to 10 computer tapes, seven of which are missing.

He has pleaded innocent to 59 counts under the US Atomic Energy and Espionage Acts.

In June, US Attorney General Janet Reno told Congress that Lee had been investigated more than a decade earlier for his links to Taiwanese officials.

During that probe, Lee admitted giving unclassified nuclear information to Taiwanese officials, Reno said.

Reno said Lee's ties with Taiwan as well as his reputation for being pro-Taiwan and anti-China raised questions about whether Lee would spy for China.

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