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October 17, 1999 NATO Bombed Chinese Embassy Deliberately -UK Paper
Filed at 12:28 a.m. EDT
By Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) - NATO deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade after the Western alliance discovered the mission was being used to transmit Yugoslav military communications, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
An official at NATO headquarters in Brussels denied the Observer newspaper's report but it is likely to rekindle diplomatic tensions on the eve of a visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to alliance hawk Britain this week.
The Observer quoted an unnamed intelligence officer as saying ``NATO had been hunting the radio transmitters in Belgrade,'' including one at President Slobodan Milosevic's house, during its air war against Yugoslavia. ``When the president's residence was bombed on 23 April, the signals disappeared for 24 hours,'' said the NATO officer, who monitored Yugoslav broadcasts from neighboring Macedonia.
``When they came back on the air again, we discovered they came from the (Chinese) embassy compound.''
The three cruise missiles that slammed into the mission on May 7 killed three Chinese and opened a diplomatic chasm between NATO and Beijing, which holds one of five permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. Senior U.S. and NATO officials blamed the attack on a targeting error caused by outdated maps.
That explanation brought incredulity from Chinese leaders and the bombing sparked three days of government-backed protests against the U.S. and British embassies in Beijing.
The Observer said it had been told by a NATO flight control officer in Naples that the Chinese mission was correctly located on a map of ``non-targets'' which included churches, hospitals and embassies. It said the Chinese embassy had been removed from the list after NATO electronic intelligence detected it was rebroadcasting Yugoslav Army communications to units in the field.
The Observer speculated the Chinese might have helped Milosevic as a means of gaining access to radar-evading technology aboard a U.S. F-117 Stealth bomber that went down in Yugoslavia in the first few days of NATO's air campaign.
``The Chinese were also suspected of monitoring the cruise missile attacks on Belgrade, with a view to developing effective countermeasures against U.S. missiles,'' it said. The NATO official in Brussels said of the Observer story, written in cooperation with Denmark's Politiken newspaper, ``as far as I know is not true.'' ``I can only go by the statements that have been made in Washington,'' he told Reuters.
A spokesman at Britain's Ministry of Defense said the story was not a new one after ``wide speculation that it was a conspiracy, even at the time of the incident.''
``Apologies were given by the United Kingdom,'' he told Reuters. ``In light of the Chinese visit next week, it is clearly muddying the waters. I think they are throwing firecrackers in there.''