China on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that it is seeking to illegally obtain U.S. space technology after a scientist in the United States was convicted of violating the U.S. arms embargo on China.
The scientist, Quan-Sheng Shu, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Shanghai, pleaded guilty Monday in a district court in Norfolk, Virginia, to selling rocket technology to China and bribing Chinese officials to secure a lucrative contract for his high-tech company.
Qin Gang, a spokesman at China's Foreign Ministry, told reporters Tuesday that "the allegation that China is stealing outer space technology from the U.S. is being made with ulterior motives, and is in vain."
Qin did not elaborate.
Prosecutors said Shu, an expert in cryogenics, sold technology to China for the development of hydrogen-propelled rockets. Shu's attorney said the case had nothing to do with espionage or treason.
The Chinese government is developing a space launch facility in the southern island province of Hainan that will house liquid-propelled launch vehicles designed to send space stations and satellites into orbit. The project is overseen by an arm of the People's Liberation Army.
The U.S. maintains an arms embargo on China. The State Department determined that Shu's attempts to sell information on liquid hydrogen tanks and cryogenics equipment for the fueling system of a foreign launch facility constituted an illegal transaction.
Prosecutors said Shu, who is president of AMAC International Inc. of Newport News, had directed employees to falsify information to circumvent U.S. laws.
Shu also was charged with bribing Chinese officials to award a $4 million hydrogen liquefier contract to a French company acting as an AMAC intermediary.
Shu received more than $386,000 in commissions for securing the contract, authorities said. He already had agreed to forfeit that money.
Shu faces up to 10 years on each arms count and five years for the bribery charge and fines of up to $2.5 million. Sentencing is scheduled for April 7. He will remain free on $100,000 bond.
U.S. authorities in recent years have prosecuted more than a dozen cases of either traditional spying or economic espionage related to China. U.S. officials have warned in the past year of increasing espionage efforts by Beijing.