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Chinese Missiles: Jumping to Conclusions

In "Is China Aiming Nukes Using US Know-How?" (May 26), I found several distortions in the statement, "After the failed launch, a Loral subsidiary, without Washington's permission, gave Beijing an analysis of the accident that helped the Chinese make fixes in the rocket."

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The media continue to allude to "information" given by Loral Space and Communications to the Chinese. Nowhere has this content been described, and hence any reference to this undisclosed "information" cannot be independently substantiated by a reader.

It is questionable that Loral "gave Beijing an analysis of the accident." Loral reports that before a replacement satellite could be launched, the insurance company underwriting a potential satellite loss reasonably demanded that the replacement launch vehicle be free of whatever defect caused the accident.

The Chinese then supplied Loral with an accident analysis. Loral had to review this analysis for insurance purposes. It was the report of the concurrence by Loral of the analysis performed by the Chinese that was erroneously transferred to the Chinese. Does concurrence imply transfer of technology?

Once the bureaucratic error had been discovered, Loral submitted its report to the US government as stipulated. It must be assumed that the US subsequently approved transmittal of the report to the Chinese - as well as to the insurance companies - in order for the replacement satellite to be (successfully) launched. Any law that was broken would seem to be one of procedure and not one of "information" content.

Furthermore, the media continue to confuse the truck with its cargo. The Chinese Long-March rocket carries as its cargo a satellite. Knowledge of the satellite does not lead directly to improving the guidance system of the rocket. The Chinese analyzed the failure of their launch vehicle without direct participation by Loral, the maker of the satellite. If the media is reporting on high-tech subjects, it should at least not confuse the basic elements of the technology.

Finally, Loral reported that the Chinese determined that the nature of the failure of the Long-March rocket was a failed solder joint. The media is demanding a great deal of its readers to make the leap from a mundane failed solder joint to the transferring of classified information on missile-guidance technology. A little old-fashioned investigative reporting fueled by skepticism is warranted.

Kent Penwarden

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Los Altos, Calif.

The overlooked resource

I like the fact that teens, college students, and teachers have an opportunity to give input to the Monitor through articles in the Learning section. But I believe you are leaving out a very important group that has unique and meaningful ideas, concepts, and experiences to contribute.

School administrators are educators, too. All of them have been teens and college students. Just about all of them have been teachers. In fact, most have been very successful teachers who have been identified as such and given additional educational responsibilities that lead them into school administration.

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Don L. Griffith, PhD

Decatur, Ga.

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