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– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

No Deal Reached on Chinese Missile Proliferation

Alex Wagner

During a February 21-22 state visit to China, President George W. Bush failed to resolve concerns about Beijing’s implementation of a deal to curb Chinese missile proliferation, despite a recent report that agreement could be within reach.

The Bush administration contends that China has repeatedly violated a November 2000 agreement in which Beijing committed not to help states develop “in any way…ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons” and to enact a comprehensive missile and missile-technology export control system. (See ACT, December 2000.)

As recently as January, the CIA accused China of breaching its commitments under the deal, noting that during the first half of 2001, China provided Pakistan with “missile-related technical assistance” and that Chinese firms transferred “dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, and/or assistance” to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said that the United States wants China to design and implement a national export control law that was required by the November 2000 agreement. Beijing has yet to do so and, according to a February 27 New York Times report, insists that the United States first meet a promise it made under the deal to resume processing applications for U.S. companies to launch their satellites on Chinese rockets, a process that has been suspended since February 2000. This would require Washington to waive sanctions that bar the United States from exporting satellites to China for launch. Beijing also wants Washington to lift sanctions levied on a Chinese firm in September 2001 for missile proliferation. (See ACT, September 2001.)

Rice also said that Washington wants China to cease implementing missile-related contracts signed prior to the November 2000 deal, but China appears unwilling to meet that demand. “The agreement is for the future, not the past,” according to an unnamed Chinese Foreign Ministry official quoted in a February 26 Associated Press report.

A New York Times report appearing the day of Bush’s first meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin cited a senior White House official as “hopeful” that Beijing would meet Washington’s demands in exchange for waiving the satellite-export sanctions. However, after a meeting between Bush and Jiang on February 21, Rice said, “There is no agreement, but…work is underway.” Three rounds of working-level talks have been held to date, most recently in late November. (See ACT, January/February 2002.)

Clark Randt, the U.S. ambassador to China, highlighted the importance Washington places on Chinese missile proliferation in a January 21 speech in Hong Kong to the Asia Society. “I should be crystal clear on this point, that nonproliferation is a make-or-break issue for us,” Randt said. He added that, given the events of September 11, the “stakes are much higher than ever before [and]…the type of activities that possibly had been going on can no longer be tolerated.”

Both sides are prepared to resume discussions when China’s chief arms control negotiator, Liu Jieyi, is in Washington March 4-5 to attend a conference of high-level U.S. and Chinese arms control officials and scholars.

China Sanctioned for Chem, Bio Transfers to Iran

Seth Brugger

On January 16, the United States sanctioned two Chinese companies and an individual for transferring to Iran sensitive equipment and technology used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

According to the State Department, the transfers have taken place since January 1999 and involved goods restricted by the Australia Group, an informal body of 33 countries that coordinate their controls on biological and chemical weapons-related exports. The United States last sanctioned a Chinese entity for chemical or biological weapons-related transfers in June 2001, according to an administration official.

Levied under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and effective for two years, the latest sanctions prohibit the U.S. government from conducting business with or providing assistance to the Chinese entities: Liyang Chemical Equipment, China Machinery and Electric Import and Export Company, and Q. C. Chen. The sanctions also bar certain weapons and defense-related sales to the entities, as well as sales of goods requiring particular export licenses.

In a January 25 written statement, the State Department said, “For many years we have made known to the Chinese Government our concerns about specific Chinese entities providing assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. Q. C. Chen has been among the entities we have raised on multiple occasions.”

Chen is already subject to U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 for assisting Iran’s chemical weapons program; the other two entities were not already under sanctions. When asked, the State Department could not say whether the United States currently conducts business with the three entities.

The sanctions could have been waived, but Washington “did not believe it was appropriate” to do so, the State Department said in its statement. More information on the nature of the transfers was not publicly available, but the fact that the sanctions were levied about a month before President George W. Bush traveled to China could indicate their seriousness.

China’s Foreign Ministry rebutted the U.S. charges in a January 25 statement, saying the sanctions are “unreasonable” and “should be cancelled,” Agence France-Presse reported. “China is opposed to any country developing chemical weapons, and furthermore does not help any country develop chemical weapons,” the statement said.

Can China's Tolerance Last?

Bates Gill

Many observers seemed surprised by China’s muted reaction to the Bush administration’s December 13 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. But analysts should not have been surprised. Since early 2001, Beijing had steadily toned down its anti-missile defense rhetoric and over the past year had gradually come to tolerate—while still opposing—the U.S. missile shield effort. The ability of the United States and China to keep a lid on heated and damaging rhetoric opens the door to a more serious dialogue that, if carefully managed, may help avert undesirable outcomes arising from the changing strategic nuclear dynamic between them.

With the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement past, the questions are, how did China come to this more subdued position, and can it last?

Toning Down the Rhetoric

China’s official response to the ABM Treaty withdrawal was moderate—in many ways even more conciliatory than Moscow’s reaction. It consisted of four main points. First, Beijing maintained its opposition to the buildup of strategic missile defenses by the United States. Second, official Chinese statements noted that the ABM Treaty has served as a cornerstone of strategic stability and that its abandonment risks a destabilizing arms race. Third, Beijing urged Washington to take heed of the international community’s views on this issue, pointing to the November 29 United Nations General Assembly resolution which for the third year in a row called for the strengthening and preservation of the treaty. Finally—an indication of China’s concern with “high politics” and “atmospherics”—the official Chinese statements emphasized the important international role of the United States and China, which share common interests in maintaining global peace and which should find solutions to their differences through constructive dialogue.

It was left to the Foreign Ministry spokesman to issue the “toughest” language, expressing “regret” and “concern” over “worrisome” developments. Although China among the nuclear powers stands to lose the most in the face of U.S. missile defenses, its leaders did not even go so far as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who characterized the ABM Treaty withdrawal decision as a “mistake.” Instead, Chinese President Jiang Zemin took the high ground in his officially released statements, expressing China’s willingness “to work with other countries to make efforts to safeguard world peace and stability.”

The basis for this relatively gentle response had been laid over many months. Beginning in late 2000 and accelerating in early 2001, official and unofficial U.S. interlocutors had sent clear messages to their Chinese counterparts about the likely direction of missile defense plans in the United States, especially with the arrival of the Bush administration in Washington. These messages included the point that, although Beijing was in no position to veto U.S. missile defense plans, Chinese policies and practices—positive or negative—would have some impact on how missile defense affected the U.S.-China relationship.

As for the Chinese side, the outlines of a more “friendly” Chinese approach toward the United States were already in evidence in early 2001, with a more serious, nuanced, and flexible understanding of missile defenses a part of that overall change in tone. During exchanges in the early part of 2001, Chinese strategists identified a number of steps they hoped the United States would take as a way of gaining greater Chinese acquiescence regarding U.S. missile defense plans. In essence, the Chinese response to the ABM Treaty decision was muted because the Bush administration has taken a number of these steps.

First and foremost, the Chinese needed reassurances about the tenor and direction of U.S.-China relations overall and about the intended “targets” of the missile defense system in particular. Symbolism and rhetoric are important to China. Regardless of the impact of missile defense on China’s deterrent, Beijing wished to avoid being characterized as a “rogue state” or being seen as the justification for missile defenses.

The EP-3 spy plane incident notwithstanding, the Bush administration has made important strides to place the U.S.-China relationship on a firmer footing: the administration quietly dropped its “strategic competitor” rhetoric, President George W. Bush made his long-planned trip to China (even though the United States was at war), and the two sides have consistently emphasized the positive in their bilateral ties. The president and Secretary of State Colin Powell have said they wish to “build constructive, forward-looking relations” with Beijing and to have relations that are “candid, constructive, and cooperative.” Importantly, Secretary Powell has repeatedly stated that U.S. missile defense plans are not aimed at China but rather are intended to protect against rogue missiles.

Second, in early 2001 China voiced considerable unease about the provision of missile defenses to Taiwan, both in terms of specific “theater” systems, such as the PAC-3 or the Aegis sea-based air defense system, and the larger concern of substantively “linking” Taiwan with U.S. missile defense components. In April, the Bush administration deferred a decision on providing more advanced missile defenses to Taiwan and modified the controversial yearly arms sales ritual into a more flexible, “as needed” process.

Third, China hoped that it would be treated with respect due a Great Power and a nuclear-weapon state and that its interests would be taken duly into account by U.S. decision-makers. Since last May, the Bush administration has frequently consulted with its Chinese counterparts at the presidential, secretary, undersecretary, and assistant secretary levels, including Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Avis Bohlen’s trip to Beijing in mid-December following the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement.

Perhaps most importantly, President Bush called President Zemin on December 13, a few hours before the Rose Garden announcement on the ABM Treaty. Informing the Chinese before the announcement and suggesting the need for “strategic dialogue” on the issue not only helped to reassure Beijing, but also offered the Chinese “face” and the appearance of being a player at the Great Power table.

Notably, China’s hopes for reassuring signals from the United States focus primarily on political, as opposed to military-technical, issues. Consistent with past Chinese foreign policy, the most important thing was to “get the atmospherics right” and worry about technical details later. In any event, most Chinese strategists are not concerned about missile defense for what it might mean militarily—believing that the system, even if technologically feasible, is several years off and can be defeated through qualitative and quantitative improvements to China’s missile arsenal. Rather, missile defense for China has been about high politics: what it symbolizes in terms of U.S. strategic intentions toward China and what it means for U.S. commitments toward Taiwan. In the near term, at least, it appears Beijing has been reassured on these points.

Beyond the specifics of bilateral discussions on missile defense, the overall U.S.-Chinese relationship has also experienced an upturn, another contributing factor to Beijing’s restrained reaction to the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement. While relations have not returned to the levels of 1997-98, when the two sides exchanged high-profile state summit visits, matters are much improved from 1999, when a host of problems plagued the bilateral relationship—from the Cox Committee report and its allegations of nuclear espionage to the inadvertent bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Even the issuance in early September 2001 of U.S. sanctions against a Chinese company for its proliferation activities made hardly a ripple in relations between Washington and Beijing. Firmer footing for the bilateral relationship was only strengthened in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Washington focused its strategic attention on the war on terrorism, and China took a number of constructive steps in support of U.S. efforts.

Russia’s relatively subdued reaction was another factor weighing in Chinese minds. In the past, senior Chinese strategists publicly expressed their confidence that Russia would persevere to preserve the ABM Treaty, and Moscow and Beijing were repeatedly on record at the highest levels in their joint opposition to American missile defense plans. But by late summer, if not earlier, the Cyrillic writing was on the wall, and Chinese policy-makers had little choice but to follow Moscow’s lead. In addition, Putin and Jiang directly conversed prior to President Bush’s December 13 call to the Chinese leader, which probably also helped keep the Russian and Chinese reactions similar in tone.

And lest we forget, China has a number of other pressing issues on its domestic agenda that are more immediate and, for the survival of the Chinese Communist Party, more “strategic” in nature than the more distant and uncertain prospects for ballistic missile defense. With China’s entry into the World Trade Organization on December 11, the Beijing leadership formally added a set of new challenges to an already lengthy list of domestic socioeconomic difficulties. Moreover, China is already well into the intrigues and factional politics leading up to the next major change in Chinese leadership, slated to take place at the quintennial 16th Party Congress in early fall 2002.

In a word or two, Chinese leaders have a lot on their minds, and it is not time to rock the boat. Little was to be gained, and much could be lost, by aggressive confrontation with Washington on this issue. When all is said and done, the United States remains China’s most critical bilateral relationship—economically, diplomatically, militarily—making it very much in Beijing’s interest to downplay differences and seek stable and constructive interactions with Washington.

Thorny Issues Remain

So far, so good, right? Perhaps. While the “atmospherics” are about as good as can be expected, there are many potential difficulties in maintaining strategic nuclear stability between the United States and China.

First, in spite of all the reassurances, China still does not know precisely what Washington’s missile defense architecture is going to look like and what its impact will be on China’s missile forces, conventional and nuclear. The ABM Treaty withdrawal decision does clarify some matters. At least Beijing’s strategists can begin planning for a more robust strategic response than might have otherwise been the case had the ABM Treaty been preserved or modified. But that response will have to be largely reactive as the Bush administration’s framework for missile defense comes into view, piece by piece. Importantly, some of these steps may negatively effect overall U.S. security interests.

The most problematic “architecture” question for China concerns how Taiwan will figure into American missile defense plans. Beijing already presumes that Taiwan will likely enjoy some kind of more advanced missile defenses from the United States, though the specific circumstances under which they might be extended, and in what form, remain uncertain at this point. It appears China will be most vehemently opposed to the provision of systems, such as the PAC-3 or Aegis-equipped naval vessels, that might overtly link U.S. and Taiwanese defense capabilities in what China would view as a revival of the pre-1979 Washington-Taipei mutual defense treaty.

Second, it is unclear what precise steps China will take as part of its ongoing nuclear weapons modernization program. Here again, we can expect Chinese reactions to be partly gauged to U.S. missile defense plans. One thing seems certain: if Beijing is able to deploy even a modestly modernized second-generation arsenal, it will transform the U.S.-China strategic nuclear relationship in significant ways. The expected transition from a largely fixed-site, liquid-fuel arsenal to a land-mobile, solid-fuel force will provide Beijing with a far more reliable and formidable deterrent than it has known in the past. But China’s strategic modernization will probably not stop there. China may succeed over the next 10 to 15 years in deploying a viable “second leg” of its deterrent in the form of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and it may deploy multiple warheads on its ballistic missiles. At a minimum, we should expect an increase in the number of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that China fields.

The next decade is also likely to see further improvements in China’s command, control, reconnaissance, and early-warning capability, including the possible introduction of space-based assets to support these functions. It is also likely that China will devote more resources to developing countermeasures, such as decoys, shrouded warheads, and possibly anti-satellite weapons, to defeat missile defenses. Importantly, these development are likely to affect China’s nuclear doctrine, which will transition from a fundamentally “minimalist” posture to a more variegated deterrent: a posture of credible minimal deterrence toward the continental United States and Russia; a more offense-oriented and possibly war-fighting posture of limited deterrence with regard to China’s theater nuclear forces, especially in response to a Taiwan contingency; and an offensively configured, pre-emptive, counterforce war-fighting posture of “active defense” or “offensive defense” for the conventional missile forces.1

These ongoing and likely modernization steps will result in a second generation of far more robust, ready, and survivable nuclear weapons for China. At this point, it is unclear how far and how fast that process will unfold and how it will be interpreted in Washington (let alone other capitals, such as New Delhi, Moscow, Tokyo, and Taipei).

The uncertainties of China’s future proliferation practices will also affect the bilateral strategic nuclear dynamic. Although Beijing seems to have curbed much of the country’s sensitive nuclear- and missile-related exports, significant concerns persist. In some cases, Chinese assistance goes to those countries whose missile programs American defenses will be designed to thwart, such as Iran. It is also possible that Chinese exporters will transfer countermeasure technologies, further complicating the U.S. missile defense effort. China may find itself having to choose between actions that are profitable and actions that will further spur missile defenses.

Finally, the future U.S.-China strategic relationship will remain captive to the significant distrust found just beneath its surface, with plenty to go around on both sides. In the United States, questions about China’s rising power; its political system; its posture toward Taiwan; its proliferation record; and, significantly, whether to accept a situation in which China can hold American cities as nuclear hostages continue to divide the nation and its political leadership, including the current administration. In China, it is not at all clear that the next generation of one-party technocrats is more open, more “globalized,” or less nationalistic than their predecessors, and concerns about American “hegemonism” and global influence have hardly diminished in the wake of September 11.

In short, in spite of the current mood, the United States and China enter a post-ABM Treaty world in which their strategic nuclear relationship will be fundamentally different than what they have known in the past, and many sensitive and complicated uncertainties will persist through this transition period.

Still, the current situation in U.S.-China relations offers some room for confidence. Gauging China’s reaction over the past year, there is a narrow window of opportunity for the two sides to establish a more serious strategic dialogue, come to terms on comfortable offense-defense levels, and inject greater reassurance and confidence into their strategic relationship. A formal, ABM Treaty-like set of agreements or understandings will not be possible in the near term because neither party is prepared to go in this direction as yet. But the newly established “strategic dialogue” process between Beijing and Washington will offer a regular opportunity for the two sides to state clearly that they do not view one another as enemies (which will require the deflection of more hawkish views in both capitals) and to work toward the common cause of strategic stability.


1. This argument is fully elaborated in Bates Gill, James Mulvenon, and Mark Stokes, “China’s Strategic Rocket Forces: Transition to Credible Deterrence,” in Richard Yang and James Mulvenon, eds., The People’s Liberation Army as Organization (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, forthcoming).

Bates Gill is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. His next book, Contrasting Visions: United States, China, and World Order, is forthcoming from the Brookings Institution Press.


Many observers seemed surprised by China’s muted reaction to the Bush administration’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. But analysts should not have been surprised.

China Purchases More Russian Destroyers

On January 3, China signed a contract, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, to purchase two advanced warships from Russia. Delivery of the ships, expected within about four years, will double the number of Sovremennyy-class destroyers that China possesses.

China’s first purchase of two Sovremennyy-class destroyers several years ago received a lot of attention because the warships are equipped to fire the SS-N-22 “Sunburn” anti-ship missile. The Sunburn is a supersonic, sea-skimming missile that can be armed with a nuclear warhead, although China’s Sunburns are thought to carry conventional warheads. The Pentagon viewed delivery of the ships, which has taken place over the past two years, as a qualitative improvement for the Chinese navy but not as a significant change to the military balance in the Taiwan Strait.

Although discussions on China’s possible purchase of the first two destroyers began in 1994, according to an October 2000 report by the Congressional Research Service, China negotiated the deal after an incident in March 1996, when the United States responded to Chinese military exercises opposite Taiwan by sending two U.S. carrier battle groups to the region.

Last spring, the Bush administration agreed to supply Taiwan with four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers even though long-time Taiwan supporters in Congress were calling for the United States to provide more advanced Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis combat system. The new deal between Russia and China could increase congressional pressure on President George W. Bush to authorize transfers of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to Taipei in the future.

U.S., China Continue Missile Proliferation Talks

In the highest-level nonproliferation talks since the Bush administration took office, the United States and China met November 29-30 in Washington to discuss Beijing’s implementation of a November 2000 missile nonproliferation pledge.

A State Department official said that the talks—held between Secretary of State Colin Powell, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Guangya—were “productive.” A diplomat from the Chinese embassy in Washington added that the meetings included a “deep and frank exchange of views” and “increased mutual understanding” of arms control and proliferation issues. The meeting was the third such session in the past four months.

In the November 2000 agreement, China committed not to help states develop “in any way…ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” In exchange, the Clinton administration waived sanctions on Beijing and pledged to resume processing applications for U.S. companies to launch satellites on Chinese rockets, which had been suspended in February 2000.

Washington has been concerned that China has not faithfully implemented the agreement, leading the Bush administration to impose sanctions in September that triggered a ban for two years on all U.S. sales of electronic and space systems that could be related to ballistic missile development. (See ACT, September 2001.) Application processing cannot resume until those and some additional sanctions are lifted.

To waive the sanctions, resume satellite application processing, and be satisfied that China has faithfully implemented its pledge, the Bush administration wants to see China make progress on a range of issues. In mid-October, days after the previous round of talks concluded, Powell said that the administration wants China to satisfy U.S. concerns over missile-related contracts signed prior to the November 2000 agreement, develop a formal missile-related export control framework, and fulfill other requirements, which remain undisclosed. (See ACT, November 2001.)

A Senate aide familiar with the issue said Chinese missile transfers to Pakistan and Iran have continued since November 2000, describing the transfers as so “blatant” that they are “surely deliberate” and “probably [official] policy.”

U.S.-Chinese talks on the issue will continue in the coming months, but no specific dates have been decided upon yet.

U.S., China Make No Progress in Missile Talks

Despite a warming of relations between Washington and Beijing since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, recent efforts by the Bush administration to resolve U.S. allegations of Chinese noncompliance with a November 2000 missile proliferation agreement have apparently produced no dividends.

Attempting to lay the groundwork for an October 19 meeting between Presidents George W. Bush and Jiang Zemin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Shanghai, the two countries held missile proliferation talks October 10-11 in Beijing.

Despite pressure for a deal, the meeting yielded no progress. During an October 12 press conference, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted that the administration is “disappointed” that China “was not in a position to provide authoritative assurances” that it is fully implementing the November 2000 deal.

Under that agreement, Beijing pledged not to help states develop “ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” In exchange, Washington said it would waive sanctions on certain Chinese entities and resume processing applications for U.S. companies to launch satellites on Chinese rockets, which it had stopped processing in February 2000.

Although the United States waived the sanctions following the agreement and resumed processing applications, it has not approved any applications for the export of satellites for launch. For that to happen, Washington would have to waive two sets of sanctions, one imposed for the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the other imposed in September for missile technology transfers to Pakistan by a Chinese firm. (See ACT, September 2001.) It is unlikely that Washington will waive the latter set of sanctions without an agreement on Chinese adherence to the November 2000 deal.

During an October 17 briefing en route to Shanghai, Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out in some detail what Washington is expecting from China. Beijing needs to address U.S. concerns over missile-related contracts signed prior to the November 2000 accord; make progress on missile-related export controls; and fulfill requirements, which remain undisclosed, that would allow the United States to waive the September sanctions in order to permit satellite exports for launch, Powell said.

At the Shanghai summit, Bush and Jiang discussed non-proliferation, but that dialogue did not produce any reported results. “Proliferation is an area where there remain differences” in the Chinese-U.S. relationship, a White House official remarked during an interview.

Powell Says China 'Subdued' About Missile Defense

Powell Says China ‘Subdued’ About Missile Defense  Wade Boese Talking to reporters October 22, Secretary of State Colin Powell described Chinese officials as “rather subdued” about missile defense in recent months. Powell made his comments during a return flight from Shanghai, where he and President George W. Bush attended this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meetings.

Powell said that missile defenses came up during his Shanghai visit but that there “wasn’t a lingering conversation” about the issue. Neither Bush nor Chinese President Jiang Zemin mentioned missile defenses during the brief press conference following their first-ever meeting October 19. A Chinese Foreign Ministry summary of the two leaders’ talks suggested they focused on economic relations, cooperation against terrorism, and Taiwan, which China claims is the “most sensitive” issue in U.S.-China relations.

At the United Nations, however, Beijing has recently been outspoken against U.S. missile defense plans. On October 10, China co-sponsored with Russia and Belarus a draft resolution supporting the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the Bush administration says is an impediment to its missile defense plans and wants to scrap. A day earlier in a UN First Committee speech, Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi called on the United States to stop development of “destabilizing missile defense systems.”

A secret U.S. intelligence assessment conducted more than a year ago reportedly warned that China could respond to U.S. missile defenses by expanding tenfold its current arsenal of some 20 long-range ballistic missiles. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-DE) told an audience at the private Council on Foreign Relations on October 22 that, if such reports were correct, the cost of U.S. missile defenses was “not worth it.”

Powell, however, discounted a dramatic buildup. “I have seen nothing to suggest that the Chinese are so concerned about missile defense that they are poised for a breakout…that they would significantly by factors of two, three, four, or five, increase the numbers of their intercontinental ballistic missiles in order to get through a shield,” Powell said on his return flight.

Yet the secretary admitted that, if he were a Chinese general, “one small part of [his] brain” would wonder how U.S. defenses could affect Chinese missiles. Nevertheless, Powell said he hoped that, when the Chinese saw that the defenses are being developed against specific kinds of threats, that they would “not find the need to explode the size of their arsenal.”

U.S. Outlines Plans for Missile Defense Talks With China

Wade Boese

In a September 4 statement, the White House refuted reports that it plans to consent to Chinese strategic modernization efforts in exchange for muted Chinese opposition to U.S. missile defense plans. Instead, the Bush administration says that it will repeat assurances that its missile defense plans pose no threat to Beijing and argue that Chinese modernization plans are unwarranted.

The Bush administration’s statement came two days after newspapers, quoting unnamed senior administration officials, reported that Washington would not object to a buildup of China’s nuclear forces and would discuss the possibility of both nations resuming nuclear testing, in exchange for China dropping its objections to U.S. missile defense plans.

The reports elicited a wave of criticism, and Bush officials quickly backed away from the statements. In the September 4 release, the White House declared, “The United States will not seek to overcome China’s opposition to missile defense by telling the Chinese that we do not object to an expansion of their nuclear ballistic missile force.” The statement continued, “Nor will we acquiesce in any resumption of nuclear testing by China.”

Resumed nuclear testing might enable China to build new and smaller warheads, potentially increasing the possibility Beijing could field missiles with multiple, independently targeted warheads.

Both the United States and China have signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bars countries from conducting nuclear test explosions. Although the Republican-led Senate rejected giving its advice and consent to the treaty in October 1999 and the Bush administration has said it will not ask the Senate to revisit its decision, the White House declared September 4, “We are respecting the nuclear testing moratorium and all other nations should as well.”

Chinese officials have acknowledged the conflicting reports but have said that Beijing has yet to receive formal U.S. proposals on the issues and is awaiting a bilateral dialogue. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao added September 4, “We believe that what is urgent at the moment is to work for the early coming in force of the CTBT.”

Chinese officials also reiterated that their opposition to U.S. missile defense plans remains unchanged. Speaking September 18 in Washington, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy He Yafei argued that U.S. missile defense plans would destabilize international security and spark a new round of arms races.

Although China has been as outspoken as Russia in its opposition to U.S. missile defense plans, the Bush administration has publicly paid far less attention to Beijing’s concerns, which it contends are misplaced. The administration argues that only countries harboring hostile intent toward the United States or its allies need to worry about U.S. missile defenses. Even though it is exploring a layered defense system of sea-, air-, ground-, and space-based missile interceptors and lasers, Washington has described its future defenses as being limited, capable of intercepting only handfuls of missiles.

But China, which possesses approximately 20 ballistic missiles capable of striking the continental United States, fears that even a limited U.S. defense would negate its nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis the United States. Zhu said China would need to “ensure the effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces” in response to a U.S. missile defense, while Chinese President Jiang Zemin told The New York Times in an August interview that China “would increase” its “defense capability in keeping with the development of the international situation.” President George W. Bush will meet with Jiang for the first time at the October 20-21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Shanghai.

Bush administration officials, particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have repeatedly downplayed predictions that China will increase its nuclear arsenal in response to a U.S. defense, contending that Beijing already has a modernization plan underway. Yet critics of the administration’s missile defense plans, such as Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), argue that China would react to U.S. missile defenses by accelerating and expanding its nuclear buildup, potentially causing India and Pakistan to do likewise.

Israel Cancels Radar Deal With China

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent a letter in July to Chinese President Jiang Zemin informing him that Israel would not reconsider its decision to halt the sale of a sophisticated radar system to Beijing. Israel will begin negotiations with China in the “near future” on how to compensate China for the cancelled contract, Israeli Ministry of Defense spokesman Shlomo Dror said during an August 28 interview.

In July 2000, under pressure from the United States, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak stopped the sale of the radar system, known as the Phalcon. Chinese acquisition of the system would have given Beijing its first advanced airborne early-warning capability, which the United States feared could help tip the Taiwan Strait military balance in China’s favor.

But Barak did not actually cancel the deal. Instead, an Israeli spokesperson said that Israel would “continue to look for ways to implement the deal in understanding with the United States if the circumstances…change.” The Bush administration, however, rebuffed the idea of reversing U.S. opposition when Israeli officials broached the issue, leading Sharon to send his letter.

Sharon’s letter expressed “regret” for having to cancel the deal, Dror said. The spokesman added that Israel wants to maintain good relations with China and still considers U.S. opposition to the sale a “mistake” because it thinks Beijing will obtain a similar capability from another supplier, such as Russia or France, or will develop comparable technology on its own.

Washington to Sanction China, Pakistan for Missile Cooperation

Alex Wagner

The Bush administration announced September 1 that it will levy sanctions on a Chinese company for shipping missile equipment to a Pakistani firm in violation of a pledge Beijing made last November.

China’s privately owned Metallurgical Equipment Corporation will be sanctioned for selling missile components covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to Pakistan’s state-owned National Development Complex, which will also be sanctioned. The MTCR is a voluntary regime of 33 states that restricts exports of missiles (and their components) capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. China is not a member of the MTCR but agreed last year to adhere to its guidelines. (See ACT, December 2000.)

Effective for two years, the sanctions, which are mandatory under U.S. law but can be waived by the president, will prohibit U.S. entities from transferring a variety of missile- and space-technology-related equipment to the two firms. However, they will have little effect against the Pakistani firm, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 1998.

Chinese missile transfers have long been a cause of concern to Washington, but in November 2000, the two countries reached an agreement under which China pledged that it would not help states develop “ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” Although the Chinese statement did not mention the MTCR, the document defined nuclear-capable missiles as those that can deliver a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers, the same limits outlined in the MTCR.

In exchange for the pledge, the United States agreed to resume processing U.S. companies’ applications to use Chinese space-launch providers. According to an administration official, the application process had been suspended in February 2000 to pressure China to stem its missile exports.

But the United States has challenged Chinese adherence to the pledge, and Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the issue with Chinese leaders July 28 during a trip to Beijing. Days earlier, Powell had characterized Beijing’s recent record on missile export controls as “mixed.”

On August 23, the topic was taken up again at expert-level talks held between the United States and China, but the day after the August meeting, China’s foreign ministry spokesman maintained that “the relevant policies have been carried out to the letters,” signaling that the sides continued to differ on whether China had been continuing its missile exports.

Although an administration official denied that the late August talks and sanctions are linked, it appears likely that an agreement might have allowed the administration to waive the sanctions. At an August 6 press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had said that imposing sanctions on China “is certainly not our preferred course, although we would certainly follow U.S. law if it came to that.” He had added that the administration would like to see China abide by the November 2000 agreement and effectively implement new export controls.

Despite levying the sanctions, the United States plans to continue consulting with China on the issue. At an August 23 briefing after the experts’ meeting, State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker said that the administration “will need to do additional work to clarify China’s willingness to implement fully the terms of the November 2000 missile agreement.” No additional talks specifically on this matter have yet been scheduled, but Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan will visit Washington in September and may take up the subject.

Recent allegations charging China with transferring missile components to Pakistan first surfaced July 27 in The Washington Post. Citing diplomatic sources, the newspaper said the Bush administration had lodged a “formal protest” with China for continued missile-related exports throughout 2001.

Citing “intelligence officials,” an August 6 Washington Times report then claimed China had supplied missile components for Pakistan’s 750-kilometer Shaheen-1 and 2,000-kilometer Shaheen-2 ballistic missiles. The paper said 12 transfers of missile technology had taken place between the two countries since the beginning of 2001.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson blasted The Washington Times August 9, saying that such “intelligence” was “fabricated out of thin air in an attempt to exert pressure on other countries.” The spokesperson also reiterated China’s commitment to implementing the November 2000 agreement with a “serious, earnest and responsible approach.”

Responding to the sanctions, the Pakistani foreign ministry released a statement on September 3 calling the move “regrettable and without any justification,” and Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Inam-ul Haque, said that there had been no transfer of missile technology from China to Pakistan “in recent years” during an August 17 speech in Washington.


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