17:16 GMT +323 January 2020
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    In its ongoing trade war with China, Washington has repeatedly accused Beijing of the theft of billions of dollars-worth of US intellectual property and technology.

    The US Department of Energy (DoE) has issued an order obliging employees and scientists who receive grants from the department not to participate in talent-recruitment sponsored by certain countries which they suspect of using the programs to obtain "sensitive" information, the Wall Street Journal has reported, citing an internal department memo.

    According to the memo, all personnel, including contracted scientists and grant recipients, must declare any connections to foreign-funded programs, which DoE deputy secretary Dan Brouillette indicated may "threaten the United States' economic base by facilitating the unauthorised transfer of technology and intellectual property to foreign governments."

    An anonymous official speaking to Reuters said the ban could allow the US department, which oversees 17 major national labs engaged in advanced research on nuclear energy, weapons, and super computers, to learn which foreign-tied programs may have sought to recruit US brains. "It's basically giving them the chance to say, 'OK I want to be paid by DOE or I want to be paid by this outside, state-funded initiative," the official said in the memo.

    The memo does not name specific countries, but comes amid growing tensions between the US and China over what US claims is China's large-scale theft of US companies' intellectual property and technology. It's not clear whether long-running tensions between the US and countries such as Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela may affect DoE scientists' cooperation with those countries.

    According to a department press spokesman, "some" foreign-sponsored talent recruitment programs "have taken advantage of America's openness to collaboration to infiltrate our labs, steal our technology and use our own resources against us."

    US lawmakers introduced draft legislation aimed at combatting alleged technology threats to US national security from countries like China last month, singling out China for what they said was a Chinese "coordinated assault on US intellectual property, US businesses, and our government networks and information."  China has denied the claims.

    China and the US have been engaged in a trade war since last June, when President Donald Trump announced tens of billions of dollars of tariffs against Chinese goods. The trade spat has escalated since then, with the two countries levying duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods before agreeing to trade talks aimed at resolving the dispute.


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