U.S. intelligence officials say that the U.S. surveillance aircraft that collided with a Chinese jet on April 1st was gathering electronic evidence about an underground nuclear test that China is preparing to conduct. The test preparations were spotted by a U.S. spy satellite two weeks ago at China?s Lop Nur testing facility in Western Xinjiang province, where photographs showed that activity related to nuclear testing was taking place.

In 1966, China signed an international treaty banning all underground nuclear blasts. U.S. intelligence suspicions that China may be undertaking underground testing were confirmed after agents from Bejing purchased special nuclear containment equipment from Russia several years ago.

China is opposing U.S. plans to sell arms to Taiwan. A nuclear test would signal China?s growing nuclear power and give them greater influence in negotiations over the future of Taiwan. China in the past has used tests of its missiles and nuclear weapons as political signals to the United States.

A U.S. defense official said that the testing activity may indicate that China?s leader, President Jiang Zemin, is not fully in control of his government. ?Some say Jiang is a moderate who wants good relations with the United States,? he said. ?If that?s the case, this test during a difficult period with the United States indicates he is not in control of China.?

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