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EU Eyes Lifting China Arms Embargo

Gabrielle Kohlmeier

Despite adamant U.S. opposition, France and Germany are pushing to repeal a 15-year-old European Union arms embargo on China.

Last December, Paris successfully prodded the EU leadership to reconsider the ban. Now, expectations are high both on the Chinese and much of the European side that the ban will be lifted by Dec. 8, when EU and Chinese leaders will hold an annual summit in The Hague.

Arms embargoes against China were put in place by the United States and the European Union after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Although sanctions imposed on China by the United States involve concrete prohibitions on the export of any item on the U.S. Munitions List, the European embargo lacks such specificity, resulting in different interpretations of the ban by different EU member states. In some member states, virtually any military sales are banned, whereas in others, such as the United Kingdom, nonlethal military items are not seen as restricted by the embargo.

Moreover, since 1989, both the United States and members of the European Union continued to engage in military transfers to China. According to a 1998 General Accounting Office report, presidential waivers of the U.S. ban between 1989 and 1998 resulted in defense transactions to China worth approximately $350 million. Three EU members—France, Italy, and the United Kingdom—also have delivered military items to China, although no new agreement on the delivery of lethal articles has been negotiated since 1989.

Because sales of some military items have continued, the embargo is seen by many European countries as largely symbolic. Additionally, at a time when the European Union is on the verge of becoming China’s largest trade partner, China has pushed hard for the ban’s removal.

China has become the world’s largest arms importer, with a defense budget estimated at $50-70 billion. Russia is currently China’s leading supplier, providing as much as $2.1 billion worth of arms annually. But Chinese officials claim that many of the Russian items are of inferior quality and that they want to diversify suppliers.

With European defense budgets dropping precipitously, European defense companies have been pushing for entry into China’s market. But critics maintain that lifting the ban will accelerate the modernization of China’s defense, thereby endangering regional security and human rights.

Proponents contend that other safeguards will remain in place, such as the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, a set of principles to which EU members are politically bound. Numerous EU member states have enacted this into their domestic legislation. The code requires EU members to restrict exports to countries with serious human rights violations and to countries where there is a clear risk that weapons could be used for internal repression or external aggression. In addition to strengthening the Code of Conduct, the European Union also is planning to strengthen export controls on dual-use technologies and similarly ambiguous items. Proponents, therefore, argue that with such safeguards in place, repeal of the ban will have a negligible effect on arms sales to China.

That argument appears to have swayed Dutch officials. The Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, had strongly supported maintaining the ban, as has Denmark and Sweden. The Dutch leadership declared the issue of the embargo against China to be one of the most difficult issues it will face during its presidency but divulged that it will not resist if the remaining EU states support lifting the ban.

Support for the ban within the European Union seems to be faltering under French and German pressure, but there remain some advocates for preserving the ban. British European Parliament member Graham Watson, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, in an Aug. 3 editorial in the International Herald Tribune called the pressure to lift the ban “commercial, pure and simple,” which goes against the ethical “guiding logic of the ban.”

The United States also has ramped up efforts to convince the European Union to maintain the embargo, which is seen as an essential strategic device to slow China’s defense modernization. Secretary of State Colin Powell has used numerous opportunities this year to emphasize the importance of maintaining the ban, stressing that the reasons for the initial imposition of the ban remain valid today. The United States also is wary of the European Union’s promised safeguards, which it sees as tenuous at best once the embargo is lifted and economic pressures weigh in.

Members of Congress have introduced legislation that will both restrict transfers of U.S. military technology to European countries selling arms to China and forbid purchases by the Pentagon from such countries. This bill could affect current U.S. efforts aimed at making U.S. forces interoperable with the forces of its European allies.

Congress Questions U.S. Support for China Joining Nuclear Group

Wade Boese

Several U.S. legislators expressed reservations May 18 about Bush administration support for China’s successful application to join a voluntary regime to coordinate nuclear export control policies, but a top Department of State official sought to allay their concerns by portraying China as working steadily to improve its nonproliferation behavior.

Led by their chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), several House International Relations Committee members voiced their qualms at a hearing on China’s bid to be part of the 40-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Hyde called China one of the world’s “principal sinners” when it comes to proliferation, while the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, said he had a “deep distrust” of China.

Lawmakers pointed to China’s May 4 agreement to supply Pakistan with a second nuclear reactor, to be located at Chashma, as one basis for their concerns. The sale is contrary to NSG guidelines, but Beijing will be free to fulfill the contract because a government is not held accountable by the NSG for any deals completed before it is accepted as a regime member.

In his prepared hearing testimony, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John S. Wolf acknowledged, “We would prefer that no such cooperation occur.” He added that Washington is seeking “full information” on the Chinese-Pakistani contract.

At the same time, Wolf defended China’s NSG membership bid, saying, China’s “overall trend in the nuclear area is positive.” He cited its “broad cessation” of nuclear relations with Iran and cooperative role over the past seven years in the informal Zangger Committee, which also aims to regulate nuclear exports.

Wolf admitted that China’s record in controlling chemical weapons and missile exports has been less than desirable but said that should not prevent Beijing from joining the nuclear regime. He argued, “Tying NSG membership to a host of other issues at the last moment would not bring us progress on the other issues.”

Still, Wolf indicated that the administration expects China to be more diligent. “China needs to do a consistently better job in identifying and denying risky exports, seeking out potential violators, and stopping problematic exports at the border,” Wolf testified. If it does not, he cautioned, the administration would not hesitate to impose sanctions on any offending Chinese entities, as it has dozens of times. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Wolf further contended it would be beneficial to have China inside the regime because member states would be in a better position to press fellow-member China on its policies. He said U.S. national interests would benefit if China played by the “same rules as every other nuclear supplier.”

Wolf’s case did not persuade Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who grilled Wolf about the Chinese-Pakistani nuclear reactor deal. “I don’t know if this has been thought out that well,” Ackerman concluded.

The hearing took place a week before the NSG met in Sweden and approved membership for China, as well as Estonia, Lithuania, and Malta. — Wade Boese





U.S., North Korea Jockey For China's Support as Working Group Nuclear Talks Approach

As North Korea and the United States prepare for a new round of multilateral talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program, both sides are lobbying for the support of China...

Paul Kerr

As North Korea and the United States prepare for a new round of multilateral talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program, both sides are lobbying for the support of China in an effort to gain diplomatic leverage in future talks.

In April, Vice President Dick Cheney and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Beijing within a few days of one another. Both discussed the status of the six-party talks designed to resolve a nearly two-year-old nuclear crisis. China, which provides North Korea with vital supplies of fuel and food, is one of the six parties and the host of the talks.

Soon after the two visits, China announced that a long-stalled “working group” meeting of lower-level officials would take place May 12. The talks, which will be conducted in Beijing, are designed to set the stage for a meeting of higher-level officials before the end of June.

The recent nuclear crisis began in October 2002, when the United States reported that North Korea admitted to pursuing a covert uranium-enrichment program, which can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. As the crisis escalated, Pyongyang also restarted a plutonium-based nuclear program that had been frozen since 1994 by an agreement with the United States. Since then, the two countries have participated in three rounds of multilateral talks with China, including two rounds of six-party talks. The negotiations have made little apparent progress.

During the most recent round of six-party talks held in February, the parties— which also include South Korea, Japan, and Russia—agreed to meet again by the end of June and to form a “working group” of lower-level officials to prepare for the next round. (See ACT, April 2004.)

The visits by Cheney and Kim reflect the diplomatic importance Beijing has assumed since the crisis began. Pyongyang and Washington have both consulted with Beijing repeatedly, attempting to enlist its support for their positions. In an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today (see page 31), Department of State Director for Policy Planning Mitchell Reiss described China as a “mediator” in the dispute, adding that it has “the most influence on the North. And so to get [it] on board…gives us much more weight in these negotiations.”

In an April 15 speech at Fudan University in Shanghai, Cheney similarly argued that pressure from China and the other participants was important to “persuade” North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Cheney also indicated that Pyongyang’s neighbors should demand that it yield to U.S. demands as a condition for improved economic relations with them, suggesting that “the sad state” of its economy will force the regime to comply.

U.S. officials have previously suggested that North Korea’s economic weakness provides other governments with a source of diplomatic leverage, but U.S. intelligence agencies have stated that North Korea shows no signs of imminent collapse. (See ACT, December 2003.)

Warning that a nuclear-armed North Korea could both provoke a regional arms race and supply nuclear weapons technology to terrorists or other governments, Cheney also implied that the United States might lose patience with its diplomatic efforts. “It is important that we make progress in this area. Time is not necessarily on our side,” he said. Undersecretary of State John Bolton underscored Cheney’s point April 27, declaring that “simply continuing to talk…is not progress.”

North Korea itself has said that delays in resolving the dispute will give it more time to build its nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Kim met with high-ranking Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao, during his April 19-21 visit. Washington did not become aware of the meeting until shortly before it began, a State Department official told ACT April 28.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported April 21 that the two leaders agreed to “jointly [push] forward the six-party talks process” and Kim promised North Korea “will continue to take a patient and flexible manner and actively participate in the six-party talks process, and make its own contributions to the progress of the talks.”

Kim noted that North Korea’s negotiating stance “remained unchanged,” according to an April 22 state-run Korean Central News Agency statement.

North Korea has said it will dismantle its nuclear weapons program, but only in a series of steps synchronized with significant U.S. concessions.

Pyongyang’s proposal has not swayed Washington, which says North Korea has failed to meet the U.S. bottom-line demand that any dismantlement agreement be “complete, verifiable, and irreversible.” Washington has said bilateral relations could improve if North Korea carries out such a disarmament program, but claims it will not “reward” Pyongyang for doing so, and refuses to specify how it will respond to such North Korean concessions.

Although Kim’s pledge may lend credence to South Korean press reports that Beijing pressured North Korea to soften its negotiating stance, two other recent Chinese decisions underscore Beijing’s reluctance to go along with a U.S. strategy to isolate Pyongyang. Instead, Beijing appears intent on retaining its role as an “honest broker” between North Korea and the United States.

Xinhua reported April 21 that the two countries agreed to “further develop bilateral economic and trade cooperation.” Additionally, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated April 22 that Beijing decided to increase its aid to Pyongyang.

Moreover, China joined South Korea and Russia during the last round of talks in pledging energy assistance to North Korea “on certain conditions.” Additionally, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official told reporters during the talks that the U.S. goal of North Korean nuclear dismantlement is “not enough” and that North Korea’s “concerns should be addressed.”

Indeed, despite Reiss’ insistence during the April 9 interview that the United States is able to form a “united front” against North Korea with the other four participants, China has consistently pressed for North Korea and the United States to show greater “flexibility” in the talks. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated April 15 that resolving the dispute requires “greater flexibility and pragmatism from the other five parties.”





Taiwan, China, and U.S. in Arms Referendum Imbroglio

After provoking a stern rebuke from the United States, Taiwan in mid-January modified a proposed March 20 referendum regarding China’s deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at the island. 

Wade Boese

After provoking a stern rebuke from the United States, Taiwan in mid-January modified a proposed March 20 referendum regarding China’s deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at the island. The move appeared to mollify Washington, but Beijing remains upset.

The initial referendum text asked voters to weigh in on whether China should end its deployment of some 500 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan and revoke its threats to use force against the island. The amended referendum now simply questions whether Taiwan should buy more missile defense systems if China does not withdraw its missile deployments and whether Taipei should negotiate a “peace and stability” framework with Beijing.

The referendum—the island’s first—was proposed last fall by Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian, a longtime advocate for Taiwanese independence who is currently seeking re-election. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) Both Beijing and Washington objected to the proposal. China perceived the referendum as a sly attempt to put Taiwan on a path to declare independence, which China resolutely opposes because it wants the island returned to the mainland’s control. The United States worried such a vote might plunge China and Taiwan into armed conflict.

Standing next to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao after a Dec. 9, 2003, White House meeting, President George W. Bush warned, “The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.”

China was not appeased by the change in the referendum’s language. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan fumed Jan. 18, “This is a unilateral provocation against the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and its essence is to make way for Taiwan’s independence in the name of referendum in the future.”

Washington has reserved official comment on the new wording, but it also has been pushing Taiwan to buy missile defense systems for the past few years
. Taiwan has pleaded it does not have the funding.

Although the United States stands ready to supply Taiwan with arms, it takes issue with growing European interest in resuming weapons deals with China. France and Germany are spearheading an effort to get the European Union (EU) to end its arms embargo against Beijing that has been in place since the Chinese government violently crushed public protests at Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Javier Solana, the EU’s top foreign policy and security official, has recently suggested that the embargo is likely to be repealed, although when remains unclear.

Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher Jan. 28 recommended against such an action. “We believe that the U.S. and European prohibitions on arms sales [to China] are complementary, were imposed for the same reasons—specifically, serious human rights abuses—and that those reasons remain valid today,” he said.

Not surprisingly, China views the matter differently. On Feb. 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue deemed the EU arms embargo a “relic of the Cold War.” She added, “It is our hope that…this anachronism would be comprehensively resolved as soon as possible.”






China Seeks to Join Nuclear, Missile Control Groups

Building on recent efforts to demonstrate its nonproliferation credentials, China is seeking to join two voluntary multilateral export control regimes that seek to limit...

Paul Kerr and Wade Boese

Building on recent efforts to demonstrate its nonproliferation credentials, China is seeking to join two voluntary multilateral export control regimes that seek to limit the spread of nuclear and missile-related technologies. China formally applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Jan. 26, and began talks exploring possible membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Feb. 10.

The 40-member NSG is comprised of nuclear supplier states that have agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and technology to prevent nuclear exports intended for commercial and peaceful purposes from being used to make nuclear weapons. The 33-member MTCR is an export control regime that aims to limit the spread of ballistic and cruise missiles.

During his term as the rotating chairman of MTCR from September 2002 to September 2003, Polish Ambassador Mariusz Handzlik invited Beijing to participate in the regime. According to a Feb. 12 statement made by Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs Hu Xiaodi at the UN Conference on Disarmament, China sent a letter to the MTCR chairman last September indicating it was “ready to positively consider applying for joining the MTCR.”

In Washington Feb. 4, Handzlik said that three rounds of talks are scheduled this year between China and MTCR to clear up “old differences” and to evaluate Chinese export controls to see if they conform with MTCR standards. All current regime members would need to approve of China’s accession to the regime.

U.S. and foreign government officials say future Chinese membership is not preordained. An official from the Department of State said Feb. 6 that Beijing “has ongoing problems of enforcement and implementation of missile export controls,” and a European diplomat remarked the same day that “there are still questions.” However, Handzlik stated there is “good will on both sides” and that the “process has begun.”

Under U.S. urging, China has gradually moved over the past several years to bring its national export controls into line with those of MTCR members. In November 2000, Beijing declared that it would not assist other states in acquiring missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. That pledge was defined as applying to missiles capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers or more—the same formulation that appears in MTCR guidelines. Then, in August 2002, China published a list of missile-related and dual-use goods that required government approval before being exported.

A Chinese “White Paper” issued last December devoted most of its space to a detailed description of China’s export controls, emphasizing their consistency with international norms. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) The paper pointed out that China maintains “control lists” of nuclear proliferation-sensitive exports that are similar to equivalent NSG lists. It also noted that China issued new export regulations for chemical and biological materials and equipment in October 2002.

China further signaled its willingness to cooperate with the United States by signing a Statement of Intent Jan.12 that “establishes a process for cooperation” between the U.S. Department of Energy and the China Atomic Energy Authority “on a range of nuclear nonproliferation and security activities,” according to an Energy Department press release. These activities include “efforts to strengthen export controls [and] international nuclear safeguards,” the department said.

State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said Feb. 17 that “we have seen progress by China” on proliferation issues and that China is “very interested in the Proliferation Security Initiative” (PSI). The PSI is a U.S.-led multilateral effort to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related materials. Beijing, however, offers a much less sanguine view of PSI in its statements.

State Department officials told Arms Control Today that Washington views China’s application to the NSG as a positive step but that the United States remains concerned about Chinese proliferation activity.

A November CIA report acknowledged improvement in China’s nonproliferation policies but noted possible Chinese cooperation with other states on their nuclear, chemical, and missile programs. Additionally, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter told Congress in July 2003 that China is failing to enforce its export control laws properly and implied that China sometimes deliberately allows sensitive technology transfers to occur. The Bush administration has imposed sanctions on Chinese firms multiple times for illicit technology transfers. (See ACT, September 2003.)

When asked about press reports that Libya had acquired from Pakistan nuclear weapons designs of Chinese origin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed concern and said Beijing would investigate the matter, Reuters reported Feb. 17.






Taiwan Proposes Controversial Vote on Chinese Missiles

In the midst of a heated re-election campaign, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian has proposed a referendum demanding China end its deployment of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan...

Wade Boese

In the midst of a heated re-election campaign, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian has proposed a referendum demanding China end its deployment of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan. Washington and Beijing as well as rival Taiwanese politicians all oppose the first-time vote.

The proposed referendum is scheduled for March 20, which coincides with Taiwan’s presidential election. According to Chen, the referendum would call upon China to end its deployment of nearly 500 ballistic missiles along its coast across from Taiwan and renounce the possible use of force against Taiwan.

China claims Taiwan is a renegade province that should be reunified with the mainland. Beijing routinely says it prefers peaceful reunification, but it always publicly reserves the right to resort to force, particularly if Taiwan declares independence.

After a Dec. 9 White House meeting with President George W. Bush, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing saw the proposed referendum as designed to “split Taiwan away from China.” He added that “[s]uch separatist activities are what the Chinese side can absolutely not accept and tolerate.” Wen did soften his tone somewhat by noting that, “so long as there is a glimmer of hope, we would not give up our efforts for peaceful reunification.”

Bush also took exception to Chen’s proposal. He warned that the United States opposes moves by either Beijing or Taipei to upset the delicate relationship between the two. Bush bluntly stated in April 2001 that the United States would do “whatever it took” to help Taiwan defend itself against a Chinese attack. But standing next to Wen, Bush stated, “[T]he comments and actions by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.”

Chen disavowed in an extensive Dec. 6 interview with The New York Times that the proposed referendum had anything to do with independence and compared Taiwan’s current situation to the 1962 U.S.-Soviet showdown over Moscow’s attempt to deploy ballistic missiles in Cuba. He also said Taiwan’s democracy should not be sacrificed by the United States for better relations with China.

Washington has spoken out against China’s missile deployments and aggressively pushed Taiwan to purchase missile defense systems to counter the Chinese buildup. (See ACT, June 2003.) Taiwan claims missile defenses are too expensive. For its part, China has strongly opposed the U.S. sale of missile defenses and all other arms to the island.






China Stresses Common Approach With Bush Administration's Nonproliferation Policy

The Chinese government recently issued a “White Paper” describing its nonproliferation policies that represents a rhetorical progression from earlier Chinese statements...

Paul Kerr

The Chinese government recently issued a “White Paper” describing its nonproliferation policies that represents a rhetorical progression from earlier Chinese statements. The paper stresses Chinese policies consistent with the U.S. nonproliferation approach and downplays differences between the two, placing special emphasis on export control policies designed to prevent the transfer of materials that can be used to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The paper, made public Dec. 3, portrays China as a country that takes its nonproliferation obligations seriously. It states, “[W]ith its strong sense of responsibility, China has…formulated a whole set of non-proliferation policies and put in place a fairly complete legal framework on non-proliferation and export control. It has taken positive and constructive measures to accelerate the international non-proliferation process with concrete actions.”

According to the paper, these measures include adhering to a variety of international arms control agreements, including the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). China also agreed in November 2000 to act in accordance with guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and refrain from assisting states in developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, even though it is not a member of the MTCR.

The majority of the paper is devoted to a comprehensive, detailed description of China’s export control “practices,” which, the paper is careful to emphasize, are consistent with international norms. These include maintaining “control lists” of proliferation-sensitive exports, requiring licenses for such exports, demanding certification that end-users of exported items will not divert them to military purposes, and employing “catch-all” controls which require exporters to apply for export licenses if they “[know] or should know” that the exported item poses “a risk of proliferation.” These controls “form a complete system for the export control of nuclear, biological, chemical, missile and…all military products,” the paper adds.

Beijing has been strengthening its export controls during the past decade. For example, China published export control regulations for missiles and related components in August 2002 after agreeing to do so as part of its November 2000 pledge to limit further its missile exports. China also issued new export regulations for chemical and biological materials and related equipment in October 2002.

Washington continues to express concerns that China is not effectively enforcing its export laws. Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli stated Dec. 3 that the United States believes China has “enacted good legislation” but that U.S. “focus is on implementation and enforcement.”

Although the paper states that Beijing’s enforcement record has improved and cites instances where violators have been caught and punished, the United States remains skeptical.

A November CIA report acknowledged improvement in China’s nonproliferation policies but cautioned that “proliferation behavior of Chinese companies remains of great concern.” The report cites possible Chinese cooperation with Iranian and Pakistani nuclear programs; Iran’s chemical weapons program; and missile programs in Iran, Pakistan, Libya, and North Korea. The Bush administration has imposed sanctions on Chinese firms multiple times for illicit technology transfers. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Furthermore, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter not only told Congress in July that China is failing to enforce its export control laws properly, but also implied that China sometimes deliberately allows sensitive technology transfers to occur. (See ACT, September 2003.) DeSutter further stated that China has maintained chemical and biological weapons programs in violation of the CWC and BWC.

A Shift in Tone

In addition to describing China’s progress in enacting export control policies, the paper discusses the role of arms control in international security. Although this discussion does not articulate specific policy changes, its tone and emphasis distinguishes it from past high-level Chinese statements on nonproliferation.

The White Paper’s focus is similar to the Bush administration’s approach to arms control, which places less emphasis on international arms control agreements and stresses “supply-side” efforts to prevent the transfer of WMD materials, particularly the enforcement of export controls.

In contrast, both China’s 1995 White Paper on Arms Control and Disarmament and its 2002 Defense White Paper devote much more space to the question of nuclear disarmament and complaints about U.S. policies, such as the U.S. pursuit of missile defenses, although they also portray Beijing as working to curb WMD proliferation and describe improvements in its export control policies.

For example, the 1995 White Paper argued that stemming nuclear proliferation is “part of the process of eliminating such weapons,” alluding to Article VI of the NPT, which commits nuclear weapons states to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race…and to nuclear disarmament.” This latest White Paper, however, states that the purpose of nonproliferation is “to safeguard and promote international and regional peace and security,” and it only references disarmament in passing.

Yet, this change in tone and emphasis is not as abrupt as it may first appear. An October 2002 article by China’s Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya struck a tone similar to that of the most recent White Paper.

The most recent statement also articulates differences between the two countries’ approaches. For example, it explains that China stresses “peaceful means” to deal with proliferation threats, adding that “proliferation issues must be settled through dialogue and international cooperation”—an apparent reference to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last spring.






Asian and Pacific Leaders Pledge to Control Shoulder-Fired Missiles

Leaders of countries from Asia to the Western Hemisphere pledged Oct. 21 to better control the international trade in shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles that could be used by terrorists against civilian and commercial aircraft.

Promoted by the United States, the nonbinding pledge came at the end of a two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok, Thailand. APEC’s 21 members include China, Japan, and Russia, all three of which produce shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, collectively referred to as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The United States also manufactures and exports MANPADS.

APEC members stated they would strengthen national controls on producing and exporting MANPADS and better protect their stockpiles against theft. They further agreed not to sell these types of missiles to nonstate actors.

The Group of Eight (G-8) issued a similar statement this past June and the 33-member Wassenaar Arrangement adopted criteria to guide MANPADS controls and exports in December 2000. Wassenaar members, which include most major arms suppliers, agreed to sell MANPADS only to governments or their licensed agents. China is not a member of either the G-8 or the Wassenaar Arrangement.

The threat posed by MANPADS has gained greater prominence following a failed November 2002 attempt in Kenya to shoot down an Israeli commercial airliner and a high-profile sting operation this past August to arrest an arms dealer selling a Russian-made shoulder-fired missile in New York City.

Washington has been trying to draw attention to the problem for several years. In June 1998, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called for the negotiation of an international agreement to “place tighter controls on the export of these portable, easily concealed weapons.” At that time, the Department of State reported that “more than 115 countries and dozens of subnational groups” possessed MANPADS.

Chinese Concession Fails to End UN Disarmament Conference's Stalemate

Proving the adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) Sept. 10...

Wade Boese

Proving the adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) Sept. 10 concluded its fifth straight year without holding any negotiations. The stalemate persisted even though China compromised on an issue perceived to be a key obstacle blocking progress in the UN arms control negotiating forum.

No clear explanation has emerged as to why the conference failed to revive after China dropped its long-standing insistence that any work program must include the drafting of a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. That demand has long been a stumbling block to negotiations: the disarmament conference operates by consensus, and the United States has refused for several years to support any negotiations for limiting weapons in outer space. Washington, which is exploring space-based interceptors for its proposed layered missile defense system, claims such a treaty is unnecessary. The CD has not completed any arms control agreement since it wrapped up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

Several factors appear to have continued to block progress in the wake of China’s Aug. 7 announcement, which occurred in the last weeks of the conference’s negotiating period for the year. By conference rules, negotiations started one year do not carry over to the next. Some delegations probably wanted to avoid a repeat of 1998 when negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty were started in August, shelved in September, and not resumed the following year.

Disputes about the proposed outer space accord was also not the only controversial issue holding up the proposed CD work program, just the most prominent. Misgivings remain about nuclear disarmament talks, a negative security assurances treaty, and a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would forbid the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons purposes.

Despite their recent tensions on Iraq and other issues, France and the United States are of the same mind on not wanting to discuss nuclear disarmament in a multilateral setting. Russia reportedly shares this reluctance.

Joined by the United Kingdom, these three nuclear-weapon states also have little enthusiasm for negotiating an accord on negative security assurances, which are commitments by nuclear-weapon states not to use nuclear weapons against countries without them. All four countries have consented to such negotiations before because the implicit understanding was that nothing would happen. Speculation exists that the United States might not support a repeat of such a charade, given February 2002 remarks by U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton questioning the value of negative security assurances (See ACT, March 2002) and general Bush administration distaste for international negotiations.

Further dampening prospects for negotiations on negative security assurances is China’s insistence that an agreement include commitments by all nuclear-weapon states to forswear the first-use of nuclear weapons. London, Moscow, Paris, and Washington all reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first and oppose the Chinese proposal.

The United States has essentially declared that it will not compromise on issues it does not want addressed. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker told the conference in February that Washington would only consent to a “clean resolution” to start fissile material cutoff treaty negotiations. He warned that tying issues together to “win approval for dubious, unpopular, or outdated proposals must end if this body is to have a future.”

Although rhetorically enjoying consensus CD support, a fissile material cutoff treaty negotiation is not without detractors and potential pitfalls. Israel, for example, opposes the treaty, and relented to the start of treaty negotiations in 1998 only after intense U.S. arm-twisting. Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned that Israel had “fundamental problems with the treaty.”

Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria have argued that a completed treaty should not be limited to barring future production but also take into account existing stockpiles. They contend a treaty failing to do so would unacceptably codify unequal holdings of weapons-making material.

Aside from conflicting views about the conference’s work program, there is also an undercurrent of skepticism about whether all members, notably the United States, want the CD to succeed. A former senior U.S. government official familiar with the conference said in a Sept. 16 interview that Bolton and others in the Bush administration “detest the CD.”

The United States did not have a dedicated CD ambassador during this year’s round of negotiations, though in June the Bush administration nominated Jackie Wolcott Sanders, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state, for the position. The Senate has not yet voted on her nomination.

Regardless of the reasons, the conference found itself in a familiar position nearing the end of this year’s negotiating session. On Aug. 21, Japanese Ambassador Kuniko Inoguchi, who was serving as the rotating conference president, described the CD as being at a “serious impasse.” Expectations for the conference’s Jan. 19 start next year are not optimistic.




Three Asian Countries to Get U.S. Missiles

The U.S. government has approved the delivery of advanced air combat missiles to Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore after agreeing to sell the missiles to the three countries a few years ago. When the missiles will actually be transferred is confidential.

The Clinton administration announced plans to sell AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) to Taiwan and Singapore in September 2000. Thailand reportedly made a similar deal, but no public record of it exists because the value of the possible sale did not cross the $14 million threshold required for the Pentagon publicly to inform Congress of the proposed transaction.

In all three cases, the United States conditioned the delivery of the AMRAAMs, which independently home in on a target beyond the distance that a pilot can see, on neighboring countries in Asia acquiring a comparable missile. U.S. policy holds that the United States will not be the first to introduce advanced beyond-visual-range missiles into a region.

In its annual report on Chinese military power released July 28, the Pentagon reported that China now possesses the Russian-made AA-12 Adder missile, which is comparable to the AMRAAM. The report marked the first public acknowledgement of a finding the United States made last year. The determination set in motion this past spring the delivery of the AMRAAMs to Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore.

Thailand and Singapore are not considered to be within the same region where China is thought to have deployed its AA-12 missiles. But the Bush administration told Congress earlier this year that Beijing’s ability to relocate the missiles and Russian offers to sell Adders to Malaysia create an imminent threat justifying AMRAAM deliveries to Thailand and Singapore.

Taiwan could receive up to 200 AMRAAMs and Singapore as many as 100. Thailand is believed to have purchased less than 10 missiles. Japan and South Korea, which are classified as being in a different region than the three above countries, have previously purchased and received AMRAAMs.


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