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* Defense Secretary Les Aspin could be in line to become ambassador to China when he quits the Pentagon Jan. 20, White House officials say.

``I think that door is open, particularly after Secretary Aspin takes ... a rest,'' White House Chief of Staff Thomas (Mack) McLarty said on ABC's ``This Week With David Brinkley.''

Aspin resigned his Pentagon post last Wednesday, citing personal reasons. However, administration officials have said President Clinton forced him to quit because of displeasure over his leadership style and public comments that were at odds with White House views, among other things.

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Mr. Clinton has chosen former intelligence official Bobby Ray Inman, a retired Navy admiral, to replace Aspin.

Before joining the administration this year, Aspin served in the House of Representatives for nearly two decades, including as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

A senior White House official said Saturday: ``Aspin could have his choice between a number of administration positions. I won't rule out that ambassador to China is one of them.''

The current ambassador to China is Stapleton Roy, a career foreign-service officer sent to Beijing more than two years ago by President Bush.

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