LOS ANGELES • Breaking a long silence, a politically connected Chinese businessman living in the United States has denied through his attorney that he handed over Chinese state secrets, including launch codes for nuclear weapons, to the US authorities.
Mr Ling Wancheng, brother of Ling Jihua - a former top aide to ex-Chinese president Hu Jintao - was the subject of media reports last week asserting that he had been debriefed by US officials and had provided nuclear secrets as well as personal information about Chinese leaders.
His case has generated intense interest in China and the US because of the access Ling Jihua once had to the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership. Ling Jihua used to head the CCP's General Office of the Central Committee - the "nerve centre of the party".
He is now awaiting trial on bribery and other charges.
Mr Gregory Smith, a Washington attorney and former associate White House counsel to former US president Bill Clinton, told Reuters he has been retained by Mr Ling Wancheng.
He said his client is in the US but declined to say whether he has applied for asylum and whether he is talking to the US authorities.
Mr Smith, speaking by telephone from his Washington office, said Mr Ling Wancheng was upset by the recent allegations, which had appeared in the Washington Free Beacon and later in the Financial Times.
Mr Smith said he had been authorised by Mr Ling Wancheng to make the following statement: "The absurd rumours that (Ling Wancheng) is in possession of a large number of secrets, including keyboard nuclear codes, and rumours that he has handed over state secrets to the US government, reported by media outlets, is a baseless lie and a groundless defamation, and he reserves his right through me to take action as appropriate."
Mr Smith added that his client, an avid golfer, "came to the US to share golf secrets, not state secrets".
Mr Bill Gertz, senior editor at the Washington Free Beacon and author of a Feb 3 article that Mr Ling Wancheng disputes, said of the latter's denials: "I have no comment." The Financial Times did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.
"One presumes (Ling Wancheng) is a valuable asset," said Mr Christopher Johnson, a former senior CIA China analyst who is now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"His brother was certainly in a very sensitive position in China, and would have had access to some very sensitive information," he said. "How much and to what degree did he pass this information on to his brother? That is the big question."
A US State Department official declined to comment on any agency dealings with China over Mr Ling Wancheng.
China's Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on Mr Ling Wancheng, saying the issue was not within its purview.